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Oklahoma high court weighs in on state’s $27 inmate reimbursement rate

County jail officials can charge above the state minimum for housing Department of Corrections inmates, but any costs must be directly related to incarcerating the prisoners, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling caps off a yearslong dispute between county leaders, state Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd and the Department of Corrections over what jails can recoup from the state beyond the legislatively set $27 per inmate per day reimbursement rate.

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices ruled that counties can seek additional reimbursement for “consumable costs” like money spent on housing, feeding, clothing and providing medical treatment to state prisoners incarcerated in county facilities.

But the court ruling limits the amount of “fixed costs” counties can claim. Counties would need to prove new operating expenses resulted from directly housing a state inmate in order to claim those. They could not automatically seek reimbursement for costs that would be incurred regardless of whether the state has any inmates in a county jail.

“Today’s ruling by the state Supreme Court is extremely unfortunate,” Byrd said. “It places a financial hardship on all 77 counties. The state Constitution is clear that no local taxes may be spent on services for which the state is responsible. State inmates are the sole financial responsibility of the state Department of Corrections (DOC), not our counties.”

Source : The Ada