Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Sheriff’s Office assuming operational control of the Hernando County Detention Center.
Previously the detention center was run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
The Sheriff’s Office is currently operating the detention center at a budget of $3.3 million less than CCA would be receiving if they were still running the facility today, a cumulative savings of more than $15.8 million since taking over the operation.
Sheriff Al Nienhuis said, “When I asked my fiscal staff to determine the savings to taxpayers over the last five years, I told them to be very conservative. I wanted to make sure that our numbers were both transparent and defensible. I was guessing the final savings number would be around $10 million. When I found out that we used ultra conservative numbers and still had a savings of over $15 million, I could hardly believe my eyes. I then called fiscal and asked if this included the extra money we have been collecting from inmates. They told me ‘IT DID NOT.’ Our very conservative estimates have us collecting at least $1 million more over the five-year period then would have otherwise been collected, again offsetting the cost to taxpayers. I have some very hard working and professional people in all areas of the Sheriff’s Office. This is strong evidence that next year’s requested budget increase of 1.9% (after we return a week’s worth of unspent funds from this year) is very reasonable. Your elected Sheriff and your elected County Commissioners work very hard to run government in an efficient and effective manner.”
In addition to the cost savings to taxpayers, the detention center’s dedicated staff has helped lead a transition that has resulted in upgraded jail technology, tighter security and the elimination of wasted resources.
During that time, major improvements have been made to the building’s crumbling walls, leaking ceilings, bug infestations, and broken locks.
In addition to bringing the existing building into compliance, a new medical wing was added to reduce the need for some outside medical services.
In the past five years, well over $1 million has been collected from inmates to help defer the cost of incarceration.
Moving inmates more quickly through the court system and subsequent sentencing has decreased the facility’s average inmate population by more than 70 inmates, while providing a savings of $2.4 million in per diem costs.
Sheriff Nienhuis continues to utilize inmate labor throughout Hernando County in order to save additional taxpayer dollars. Inmates from the Hernando County Detention Center have provided over 147,000 hours of labor to clean roadways, medians, and government facilities throughout Hernando County. The value of that voluntary labor, just at minimum wage and benefits, is approximately $1.5 million.
In addition, the Sheriff utilizes far less staff than CCA needed to accomplish the orderly running of the detention center, which also provides Hernando County residents with a huge annual savings. By operating professionally and efficiently the HCSO has reduced the cost per day to house an inmate at the detention center from $53.32 to $50.21 per day.
Detention Center staff once again successfully passed its annual Florida Model Jail Standards Inspection, drawing high praise from inspectors. This is the fifth such inspection that the facility has passed while being operated by the Sheriff’s Office.
The Florida Model Jail Standards (FMJS) are the statutorily mandated minimum standards that jails across Florida must meet to ensure the constitutional rights of those incarcerated are upheld.
Detention Deputies are also currently in the process of receiving Crisis Intervention Training, which is designed to help law enforcement officers react appropriately to situations involving mental illness or developmental disability.
Lt. Shaun Klucznik noted that the last five years have flown by.
“I am honored to be able to work with the staff at the Hernando County Detention Center,” Klucznik said. “Together we have made tremendous improvements to the physical structure of the HCDC, we’ve improved safety and security through the use of technology, and we have been excellent stewards of the tax dollar. We are very proud of what we have accomplished in just 5 years to include passing our Florida Model Jail Standards inspections and earning the voluntary Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission accreditation. We are gearing up to earn a voluntary national accreditation through the American Correctional Association and to be inspected for compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. None of this could have been accomplished without complete buy in from our extremely dedicated staff.”