Savings to be Found at the Jail?

The Allegheny County Jail has a prominent place in the Pittsburgh visage (being situated on the banks of the Monongahela River and next to the Liberty Bridge) but a relatively small place in the overall County budget. In 2011, the Jail totaled $55 million in expenditures, about 7% of the $767 million operating budget. There are ways to save money on its operations, however, and County Council is going to look at how to get that done.

An article today raised issues related to electronic monitoring and prisoner work detail in order to control the institution’s costs. The 2010 sunset review said that the Jail should "…manage inmate population growth, continue development of alternative incarceration programs". The report pointed out that the County does contract out a portion of the Jail’s operations: a non-profit provides medical services, a for-profit provides food service; laundry and halfway house programs are handled by contract. The sunset review also said that "the County could contract additional functions to make the jail a private facility".

The Jail’s most recent annual report for 2009 shows that most of the people that did end up there stayed for two weeks or less and that over the five year period through 2009 admissions decreased.