County board Chairman Jamie Curtis said today that money to pay for the program is drying up. Sheriff Robert Pickell said he's been told to bring back some county inmates who are housed elsewhere if overcrowding of the county jail eases with the reopening of the Flint city jail.
The relevation comes on the same day a spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed a plan to use state funds to reopen the city jail and allow Pickell to operate it.
The county Board of Commissioners today authorized Curtis to sign a contract for the sheriff to run the city lockup once attorneys complete final language in an agreement between the city and county.
But Curtis said more help is needed throughout the criminal justice system to lower Flint's violent crime rate, which is the highest in the nation.
"I'm good with what we approved today," Curtis said, but "it won't work (alone)."
Both Pickell and Curtis said state officials are pushing for expanded use of a tether program as they back off sending county jail inmates elsewhere.
The inmate transfers started in June 2011, designed to immediately ease the stress of jail over-crowding here. More than 700 prisoners have been transported and incarcerated at Midland and other county jails since that time.
Although Curtis said he believes the state won't allow further transfers, Pickell said he believes some limited use of the program is still possible.
Pickell said Snyder's representatives have told him they "want to eliminate that program," which he described as "very expensive."
"They are saying, 'We want to get out of that business,' " the sheriff said.
The transfers haven't solved over-crowding in the county jail, which had 704 inmates booked as of today, 124 more than its rated capacity.
The county can't exceed the jail's capacity for more than five consecutive days without triggering an automatic release of prisoners, most of whom are unsentenced or are awaiting trial on the charges against them.
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said today that she was checking on the status of funding for the jail transfer program, but did not know immediately the extent to which it is or will be used.
In a news release, the state said it is working with Pickell and local prosecutors to implement an expanded tether program that "allows nonviolent offenders to wear an electronic monitoring device on their ankle prior to their trial date."
"This will help save jail space for the most violent offenders, allow ongoing employment opportunities for nonviolent offenders and reduce overall costs," the news release said. "Since mid-June, the Department of Corrections has initiated 135 tether activations of nonviolent offenders in Genesee County, alleviating the need for those jail beds."