Commission Gets Jail Update

During this morning’s budget workshop, the Escambia County Commission was updated on the operational transfer of the Escambia County Jail. Staff is currently working to relieve Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan of the jail by October.

“I feel very confident we’re still on schedule,” said Interim County Administrator George Touart. “I haven’t seen anything that’s going to raise that million dollar flag.”

The Commission decided to take control of the jail last month, finding the sheriff’s budget request—driven by a mandate to satisfy a recently completed U.S. Department of Justice investigation—too high, and betting that Touart can satisfy the DOJ’s concerns for $2.6 million, a sum originally meant for employee raises.

“I’m gonna do my darnedest to make it work,” Touart told the board this morning.

Budget Director Amy Lavoy said that staff is currently reviewing contracts associated with the jail, determining if they are renewable and desirable. She said the Human Resources Department is also reviewing employee contracts, and that the IT department is assessing the 22 systems it must transfer.

County Attorney Alison Rogers said that she had spoken with the DOJ, and that the agency was in the process of creating a draft agreement.

“A jumping off point,” Rogers said.

The attorney also said that the DOJ investigator had suggested the county begin its jail remediation in the area of mental health services.

Commissioner Lumon May cited the DOJ’s recommendation to take measures to decrease the population in the jail. Touart said that the county was talking to the judiciary and “finding an air of cooperation.”

“They understand the problem,” he said. “They’ve read the papers, they understand the problem.”

The commission also decided this morning to rework the funding mechanism for the jail transfer. Instead of funding the transfer with the $2.6 million employee cost-of-living increases (a portion of which Touart hoped would remain to fund partial raises), the Commission voted unanimously to use money from the sheriff’s and the clerk of court’s internal service fund. That amount totals about $3 million.