The U.S. Marshals Service is housing prisoners at the Lincoln County Jail for the first time since an escape there nearly 15 months ago.
The change is good news for the Sheriff‘s Office budget, which depends in part on the lucrative contracts it has with outside agencies to house prisoners. In the case of the Marshals Service, the county gets $55 a day for each prisoner.
Sheriff Mike Krigbaum said inspectors with the federal agency toured the jail late last month, and the county got its first marshals prisoner a week later.
As of Wednesday, Lincoln County was housing eight prisoners from the service.
All 34 of the county's federal prisoners had been relocated to other facilities after an escape in November 2010, when two of the inmates climbed through a drop ceiling in a cellblock.
The inmates were recaptured within a few days. One, John Wesley Jones, pleaded guilty of the multimillion-dollar ATM Solutions robbery in St. Louis. The other, Corey Durand Cross, was not involved in the heist.
After the prison break, Lincoln County spent $150,000 on improvements, including installing a new camera system, replacing several rows of ceiling tile with steel and placing razor wire on the roof.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement began sending its prisoners back to Lincoln County about eight months after the repairs. But the marshals service opted to use one of a dozen other local facilities that lease cells to house approximately 400 of the federal inmates.
The loss of those federal funds plus a reduction in Lincoln County's sales tax revenue, forced the Sheriff's Department to trim $250,000 this year from its budget, which was set at $3.8 million.
No employees were laid off, but the department is down three positions through attrition.
Krigbaum said he was able to prevent further reductions by using money from a discretionary fund.
More prisoners will help the bottom line though. In the past, as many as 70 federal prisoners have been jailed in Lincoln County at one time, boosting coffers by more than $1 million a year.
"I'm very happy to get them back," Krigbaum said.
****Story written by Susan Weich (St. Louis Post Dispatch)****