Federal inmates to return to jail?

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County Detention Center Jailer Terry Peeples looked for ways to cut costs and raise revenues for the 2011-12 budget.

However, one thing that is not in the budget is revenue from federal prisoners.

Peeples said he hopes a change in medical contracts will eventually lead to discussion with U.S. Marshals about bringing back needed dollars from housing and transporting federal prisoners.

The jail currently contracts medical services with Southern Health Partners during the day.

The new budget sets aside $426,000 for a medical contract with Advanced Medical of Illinois, giving the jail 24-hour coverage for the first time.

The roadblock to bringing returning federal prisoners to Grant County is an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stemming from the rape of a Pendelton County teenager at the facility in 2003.

The incident led to the conviction of several inmates and deputy jailers.

“We’ve had this Department of Justice investigation going on for years,” Peeples said. “Southern Health Partners can’t seem to get it done the way we need to in order to make the Department of Justice happy. So, we’re going to bring someone else in who can and hopefully will. Our intent is to get that investigation cleared up by the end of the year.”

Once the investigation is over, Peeples said discussions can reopen with federal marshals about the possibility of bringing back federal prisoners to Grant County.

“The U.S. Marshals will not even begin talking to us as long as the DOJ investigation is still going on,” he said. “Our first step is to get the Department of Justice done. Once we can take care of DOJ, we will pursue talking to the feds to try to get some inmates and do some transportation for them.”

Peeples said the chances the prisoners will return is “50-50.”

If an agreement is made in the future, Peeples said things would probably start slow and then increase if the marshals are happy with the service.

“Once it maxes out, it could be $500,000 a year,” he said. “It would be huge for the county.”