It costs roughly $40 a day per inmate at the Onslow County Jail, officials say, but that’s far from the only cost associated with running the three-story building in downtown Jacksonville.
There are a lot of expenses required to run the jail, Justice Complex Accountant Gary Gibson said, many of which most people don’t think about.
For example, just to maintain the elevators costs between $14,000 and $15,000 yearly. And it’s another $20,000 annually to maintain the kitchen, he said.
The jail, which the Onslow County Finance Office said received a yearly budget of $9.569 million, pays under $4 a day to feed each inmate, Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said. With 347 inmates, the number of inhabitants as of Friday, that works out to about $1,300 to feed them each day.
The numbers fluctuate depending on how many inmates are in the jail, Miller said, but on average, $40,000 is spent on food alone each month.
Having inmates in safekeeping, meaning they’re transferred to another location due to suicide attempts or to protect them from other inmates among other reasons, cost the jail more than $5,600 between July 2016 and January 2017, Gibson said.
And to keep inmates securely inside the jail they use motorized doors that are constantly opened and shut from a computer on the ground floor. It costs $90,000 to maintain those doors each year, Gibson said.
There is an average of $18,340 spent on electricity each month for the Justice Complex, which includes the jail and the sheriff’s office, according to the Onslow County Finance Office.
Looking at the last five months, the Onslow County Finance Office said an average of $9,167 monthly was paid for a combination of sewer, water and trash.
Medical services cost the jail more than $41,000 each month, including staffing the nurses station and bringing a doctor in, Miller said, and that doesn’t include the unexpected hospital trips for ailments, women going into labor, or injuries from jail fights.
Although Miller said the varying factors involved made it difficult to give a specific amount for how much an average hospital visit costs, the average amount spent on an emergency room visit is $1,200 and the average wait time is four hours, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. That doesn’t include transportation time or the time it takes to be looked at by the doctor, all of which requires a deputy nearby.
Most Onslow County deputies make between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, according to the salary document provided by the county.
North Carolina pays for state inmate’s hospital visits, but Onslow County pays the bills for local inmates. Due to being in the care of the jail at the time of the ailments, whatever they may be, Gibson said inmates are not required to pay back the money spent on medical care during their incarceration once they’re released.
But there are ways the jail makes or saves money.
Simply not sending inmates to Sampson County any longer, which Gibson said Onslow County did before they moved into the current jail in 2012, saves the county about $1 million annually.
Additionally there’s the Statewide Misdemeanor Confinement Program where the state pays local jails to house prisoners with misdemeanor offenses to prevent overpopulation at state prisons, he continued.
The state pays the jail $40 a day for each state inmate housed, Gibson said, and other counties pay Onslow County Jail $50 a day to house their inmates when their own jails are too crowded.
As of Friday, Onslow County Jail housed 40 inmates from the Statewide Misdemeanor Confinement Program and 22 inmates from Pender County, he said. The number of inmates from other counties rarely drops below 20 and the jail sometimes houses as many as 50.
However, that money doesn’t begin until a conviction, he added, so if someone spent one year in jail before their conviction and then was sentenced to serve 15 months, the jail would only be paid for the three months they remained in jail. Under North Carolina law, inmates receive credit for time served on their sentences.
The jail also makes $4,000 to $5,000 each month from inmates buying items from the canteen and $9,000 to $10,000 monthly from phone calls, Gibson said.
All of this money is used to offset the cost of operating the jail, Gibson said.