Jail gets revenue boost by leasing empty beds

When the County Board opted to build a jail addition that was larger than what was required to house Lincoln County inmates, it gambled that it would generate some revenue by leasing extra beds to surrounding counties to reduce overcrowding issues they have.

And while it may have taken a little longer than originally projected, that has proven to be the case as Lincoln County Sheriff Jeff Jaeger announced last week that it had signed contracts with two counties to take their excess inmates.

The Lincoln County Jail will soon start seeing inmates from Portage and Marathon Counties. Under a 2-year contract with Portage County, our jail will house a minimum of 35 inmates a day for two years at a cost of $32 a day. In addition, Jaeger said Lincoln and Marathon counties have a one-year contract to house prisoners for $45 each a day.

While the contract with Marathon County does not include a minimum number of inmates, it is estimated that about 20 Marathon County prisoners will be housed in Merrill a day, based on their past needs.

“So we will generate $817,600 from Portage County during the term of the contract and about $325,500 from Marathon,” Jaeger said.

He said while landing the contracts means more revenue for the department, because other counties around Lincoln have also increased their jail capacity, it was a competitive process. Shawano, Forest, Taylor and Langlade counties have all added jail space in recent years.

“I ran into the Portage County chief deputy the other day and I asked him how tight the competition was,” Jaeger said. “I asked him would we have still won the bid at $34 and he said ‘no.'”

While the revenue will go first to the sheriff’s department, Jaeger said any extra money left over would go in the county’s general fund.

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