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Jail Committee Chooses New Home Incarceration Provider

Public Working Session On Friday, Oct. 20

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

The Mercer-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee has selected a provider for home incarceration monitoring equipment.

At their regular meeting on Friday, Sept. 15, the joint jail committee voted to hire Commonwealth Testing Inc. of Danville. The committee members voted after reviewing for a month. Boylc County assembled a spread sheet with the two bids from BUDDI and Commonwealth. Boyle County Attorney Chris Herron moved to accept Commonwealth’s bid of $8.25 a day plus $1.75 insurance day per unit, with no deductible.

“It’s nice having local,” Herron said.

Officials discussed the bid with William Rayens of Commonwealth.

“We’ve only had one unit ever completely destroyed,” Rayens told the committee. He said chargers are the biggest issue, with 30 percent damage.

“This is still a whole lot cheaper than housing somebody,” said Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford. “This is a big savings.”

The cost of keeping an inmate inside the Boyle County Detention Center is more than $40. Officials have considered home incarceration as a way to save money, especially on health expenses. While in custody, the counties are responsible for any medical costs—including paying jailers to guard inmates who have been hospitalized. The counties would not be responsible for medical expenses for offenders on home incarceration.

Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean asked if there was a minimum.

“There is no minimum,” Rayens said. “You only pay for what you need.”

Herron’s motion passed unanimously. Both fiscal courts have to approve the contract. Rayens said he could have a contract to them in time for next fiscal court meeting on Sept. 26.

The jail committee voted to go with Buddi US, of Dunedin, Florida, for their ankle monitoring program in November 2022. At the time officials said Mercer County Jailer Bret “Chambo” Chamberlain and his staff would install or remove the units, which would only take about 30 seconds. However, Chamberlain never installed any monitors and the jail committee voted in February 2023 to rebid the contract due to questions about installation and monitoring.

Jail officials believe approximately 10 inmates a month­—nonviolent offenders—would qualify for the home incarcerations program.

The joint jail committee also discussed where the counties stand as far as the interlocal agreement that controls how the detention center is operated.

Mercer and Boyle Counties are still looking to make a break from the Boyle County Detention Center. In March 2023, the Mercer County Fiscal Court voted to discuss terminating the interlocal agreement, which establishes the relationship between Mercer and Boyle and dictates how the jail is operated and paid for. The counties have been negotiating what the jail break will look like, and whether it will be a clean break or something more complicated.

Under the terms of agreement, both counties have to vote to end it. One point of contention is that Boyle wants Mercer to sign a contract allowing Boyle to continue housing Mercer’s prisoners or they won’t vote to end the contract.

“I’m never going to agree to dissolve unless you agree to be renters,” Herron at the joint jail meeting in August.

“We’re going to have to come with some agreement,” Herron said. “Otherwise we keep it like it is. ”

Magistrates from the fiscal courts of both counties have met twice. But they did not meet in September. The Boyle County representatives did not attend meeting and they still need to assemble a final draft.

“I just wanted to make sure we’re in motion,” said Mercer Judge-Executive Sarah Steele.

Boyle Jailer Wofford asked to meet again before the next joint jail meeting to review the agreement. It was asked if the county attorneys could sit in, but there are quorum issues. They can’t have three members of the joint jail committee, nor can they hold a closed session meeting. Instead, they will hold a public working meeting at 9 a.m., before the regular committee meeting.

The next meeting regular meeting of the Mercer-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee will be Friday, Oct. 20, at 10 a.m. in Boyle County.

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