Cash-strapped Wayne County jail misses out on $400k cost savings

DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) -

A Wayne County audit has found that the cash-strapped sheriff's office missed out on about $400,000 in promised savings over the last two years. 

 

The finding stems from an analysis of the county’s jail food contract. In its effort

to win the contract, Canteen Correctional Services offered to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by implementing a debit-card program inside the jail.

 

Every inmate that walks through the jail doors has his or her own jail bank

account made up of whatever money they walked in with and whatever funds

family or friends deposit on their behalf to buy supplies or food.

 

“We sort of serve as a bank,” said Undersheriff Dan Pfannes. “We’re holding your accounts.  We’re crediting the money going in, we’re debiting the money going out.”

 

When an inmate leaves, the county has to issue him or her a check for whatever

remains, and just cutting those checks costs about $200,000 a year. 

 

Canteen Correctional Services offered to sweeten their proposal by implementing

a debit-card program at their expense, saving the county $400,000 over two

years.   

 

Canteen got the contract. But the savings never came.

 

“We discovered we didn’t have the ability to integrate those systems at this time,”

said Pfannes, who added that he didn't know why the county didn’t realize the compatibility problem before agreeing to the contract.

 

At a jail that’s been plagued with chronic understaffing, dilapidated conditions and underpaid deputies, most everyone agrees another $400,000 could have gone far.

 

In a statement to 7 Action News, Canteen Correctional Services said:

"The debit card inmate release program is tied to our inmate banking system. Wayne County has chosen to retain their existing system, making our programs incompatible. This was not anticipated at the time the contract was signed.”

“Obviously,” said Commissioner Ray Basham, “we need to make some changes.”

 

Wayne County Commissioners continue to pour through the newly released audit and are expected to hold another meeting next Thursday with the Sheriff’s office about it. 

 

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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