Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sheriff seeks to sever ties with CCA

Originally found here

Nugent says he can run jails more efficiently

Updated: Tuesday, 09 Mar 2010, 5:40 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 09 Mar 2010, 3:35 PM EST

SPRING HILL - It may say "Hernando County Jail," but the county lock-up in Spring Hill is actually run by a private company, the Corrections Corporation of America.

Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent told county commissioners Tuesday it's time for CCA to go.

"We hear a lot of complaints about the jail, we transfer all those to the county and we never hear about them being resolved, because it's not a public institution," Nugent said.

He told commissioners if he assumes control of the jail it would be better for inmates and taxpayers. Nugent said while he supported the idea of a private company running the jail in years past, times have changed.

"In ten years, my budget has grown by 80 percent, CCA's budget has increased by 190 percent," he said.

The sheriff conceded, however, he can only estimate the actual cost savings. That's because CCA is a private company that is reluctant to make its business records public.

"If I was a private company, I would want to hold that close to the vest also, but when you're a public entity, those are all open for disclosure," Nugent said.

Ending the agreement that's been in place for 22 years may have consequences, CCA warned commissioners. Tommy Alsup, CCA's director of partnership relations said

"...we came in good faith in the fall, negotiated a contract. We felt like we want to live up to our obligations of the contract. We felt like the county should live up to the contract also," said Tommy Alsup, CCA's director of partnership relations.

Tony Grande, another CCA executive, told commissioners it would actually cost Bay County $3 million more to run its jail if it terminated their contract with the company. That was enough to make one commissioner nervous.

"We've got look at the fiscal realities," said commissioner Jeff Stabins. "I don't know what the final answer is but I would really hate to see this contract severed by either side today."

The contract was not terminated, but despite Stabins' concern, the county asked both the sheriff and CCA to submit proposals to continue running the jail by next month.