Wyo. jail costs rise due to crime trends, inflation
The price to hold an inmate at Casper jail has increased to around $141 a day
By Sofia Saric
Casper Star Tribune, Wyo.
CASPER, Wyo. — Casper’s jail budget for this and next year has significantly increased due to a rise in crime trends coupled with the cost of inflation, which has raised the price of holding an inmate to roughly $141 a day, according to city and county officials.
On Tuesday, the city of Casper added close to $500,000 to the 2024 fiscal year budget — which ends in June — to cover unexpected inmate care costs, a city council agenda shows.
The Casper Police Department originally budgeted for about $1.4 million for jail costs, but ultimately needed about $1.9 million, Chief Keith McPheeters told the Star-Tribune. There’s no room to budget for unexpected events such as record snowfall or riots in the street, which requires extra law enforcement, he said.
And recently Casper is “facing serious crime trends,” so officers are ramping up patrols, traffic stops and other preventative policing measures to combat that, McPheeters said. This means more tickets and more arrests, and that requires additional money.
That said, police officers can’t be told “to slow down their work,” McPheeters said.
Roughly 15% of Casper’s $198 million budget for 2024 is heading toward public safety with about $1.7 million set aside for inmate costs, a city council agenda shows.
The city of Casper is billed by the Natrona County Detention Center, as the Casper Police Department doesn’t have its own jail “nor do I want to,” said McPheeters.
Generally speaking, the city pays for a person’s jail costs if a Municipal Court judge sentences an offender to jail time, said City Manager Carter Napier. The Municipal Court, located on the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice, has jurisdiction over city ordinance violations filed by the City Attorney’s Office, Casper Police Department, Metro Animal Control and Code Enforcement.
For example, diving off bridges or urinating in public are violations of city ordinances, Casper’s code of ordinances shows.
If a judge determines jail time is appropriate, the cost of holding that individual has gone up — “the costs to run the Detention Center i.e. utilities, fuel for transports, etc. have increased,” Natrona County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kiera Grogan said.
“There is an agreement in place to determine how this is calculated,” Grogan said. “There is an independent audit each year to determine that.”
In March 2022, it cost about $137 a day per person for jail costs, McPheeters said. It increased to about $141 this year. The increase isn’t particularly significant, but it typically costs a bit more each year.
McPheeters acknowledged the price may seem high — it would likely be cheaper to put someone up in “a room at the Ramkota Hotel and get room service” while they served their sentence, he said.
But the jail costs are already meticulously calculated, so as long as officers continue to need to make more arrests and give more tickets, there’s nothing that can be done by city or county agencies to lower costs, McPheeters said.
(c)2023 Casper Star Tribune, Wyo.
Visit Casper Star Tribune, Wyo. at www.trib.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.