Recommendations include reducing costs and inmate population

FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Correctional Institution should not be privatized, a county task force recommends, but steps should be taken to control costs and find efficiencies, reduce inmate population, enhance re-entry programs and increase reimbursements for out-of-state inmates.

The facility, located in Freehold Township, is operated by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office with funding supplied by the Board of Chosen Freeholders. A Correctional Facility Evaluation Task Force has been studying costs associated with the jail since early last year.

The Task Force pointed to studies that found that privatization, in many cases, results in increased numbers of escapes, reliance on private prison guards not trained in law enforcement, a rise in violence and disturbances and an increased number of lawsuits.

“The Task Force found that privatization does not make sense from a legal or financial standpoint,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, who chaired the Task Force. “It poses increased safety and security risks, and Monmouth County would still be exposed to risks of potential liability.”

“Privatization would yield marginal savings initially, but the ability to maintain those savings over a long term will diminish as liability issues increase,” Burry added.

The cost to operate the county jail is projected to be $69.4 million per year. Housing federal inmates produces $13.5 million in revenue per year, bringing the annual costs to taxpayers to $55.9 million. The committee examined several ways to achieve savings at the jail.

Recommendations include helping inmates’ transition back into society prior to their release from prison through community in-reach efforts. Those efforts include allowing employment services specialists access to the inmates to help them gain employment, encouraging mentoring by churches and ministries, and streamlining visitation procedures for community based service providers.

“The Task Force report provides Sheriff Shaun Golden with numerous useful recommendations that will enable him to reduce the high cost of operating the MCCI by developing alternatives to incarceration, improving and expanding re-entry programs, and facilitating family visitation and community in-reach,” said former Freeholder John D’Amico, a member of the Task Force.

The mental health population in the jail and those charged with less serious offenses were identified as inmates who could benefit from alternative dispositions to incarceration. A third group of inmates to consider are those who may be candidates for electronic monitoring in lieu of incarceration.

“Some recommendations set forth are beyond the control of the Sheriff’s Office and have more to do with legislative and judicial changes to the system, such as binding arbitration and alternative sentencing,” Golden said. “In addition, there are a number of fixed costs associated with running the correctional facility. For example, we have to pay to keep an area of the jail open, whether it is occupied by just a few inmates or at full capacity.”

Still, the Task Force recommends a re-examination of existing custodial posts to determine if they are all necessary to maintain security at the jail.

The Correctional Facility Evaluation Task Force report is available online at http://co.monmouth.nj.us/documents/109/JailReport.pdf