Gov. shutdown impacts county jails housing federal inmates

EL DORADO, Kan. The partial government shutdown could impact some county jails in Kansas, primarily when it comes to funding and day-to-day operations.

These impacted jails rely on the federal government for part of its funding. One jail feeling the effects of the shutdown is the Butler County Jail in El Dorado. The jail houses more than 60 federal inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service.

In a letter to Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet from U.S. Marshal Ronald L. Miller with the service's district of Kansas, "The USMS is unable to process payments for prisoner housing due to the lack of a federal appropriation."

Miller says this could affect payments to Intergovernmental agreement (IGA) facilities for their December prisoner housing reimbursement.

Thanks to funding from other areas, the El Dorado Jail is okay for now, but essentially, it's currently housing more than 60 federal inmates for free.

"We sure ain't going to turn the inmates loose," Herzet says. "Someone has to house them."

For now, Herzet says it's business as usual at the Butler County Jail.

"It really to me hasn't turned into a big deal at this point," he says of money to house the federal prisoners being on hold as the government shutdown continues.

The letter from the U.S. Marshall he received this week says the service wants to continue its working relationship with the sheriff's office in housing federal inmates at the jail and apologizes for the government shutdown.

Hertzet says the count at the jail Monday showed 62 federal inmates at the Butler County Jail. That come out to about $4,000 per day that the county is missing out on.

For now, the situation is not hurting Butler County's financial situation, at least not yet, Butler County Administrator Will Johnson says.

"At this time of the year, it doesn't have a big impact on us. We know we'll get the payments at some point in time from the feds. It's just a matter of when, not if," Johnson says.

He says because it's the beginning of the year, the county is in a new budget and is in good shape from a cash standpoint. For the situation at the jail to become a serious problem, he says the shutdown would have to last for months.

"We'll just continue as we're doing and hoping that it gets resolved and that we'll get paid and we'll move on," Herzet says.

Two thirds of the Butler County Jail operations budget comes from payments the sheriff's office receives to house inmates. At least half of that comes from the federal government.