A budget-cutting proposal by Gov. Janet Napolitano to incarcerate nonviolent criminals serving less than one year in county jails rather than state prisons could cost Maricopa County an additional $58 million in annual operational costs.
The plan could add another 2,150 inmates a year to the county jail population and also require the county to build additional jail space.
The governor’s office said the policy could save the state $60 million in fiscal 2009 and more than $90 million by fiscal 2010. Corrections officials said counties could hold prisoners in local facilities cheaper than the state.
However, Maricopa officials said each inmate in the jail costs the county between $68 and $73 per day, while the daily average in state prisons is about $62 per inmate per day.
Dora Schriro, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said at a legislative hearing on the proposal that the change would reserve state prison space for those serving longer terms for serious charges.
State law currently requires that some felons serving as little as four months — including those convicted of driving under the influence and probation violators — to be housed in state prisons.
In 2007, state prisons held 10,000 convicts who under the governor’s proposal would serve time in country jails instead.