Overcrowding in Clay County Jail causes financial issues

VERMILLION, S.D. - So many law enforcement officials have said there is a meth crisis in South Dakota right now. This is affecting so many things, but it's trickling down to the jails and causing financial issues and overcrowding.

Andy Howe has been Sheriff in Clay County for 16 years. This is the first time he remembers the jail being this full with 30 inmates. It only has 20 beds. Up until a few years ago, his jail was the one holding extra inmates.

"We were seeing actually revenue to Clay County in the neighborhood of $7,000 a month for housing these other inmates," Sheriff Howe said.

Now the roles are reversed. He's having to use other counties to house his inmates.

"Based on a few months last year, we projected $15,000 for 2019. But I'll use that up in the next month, so it's going to be a considerable unbudgeted expense," he said.

But housing isn't the only thing that's costing him. The inmates have to be transported if they're staying in different counties.

"Whether it be in court, transporting to doctors, transporting to and from other jails, it really ties up a lot of our time," he said.

And Deputy Shannon Kymala would like to be spending that time elsewhere.

"Sometimes there's just one deputy on shift, and you have to pull us off that shift to go handle a transport and inconvenience other people on shift because they have to come in on call or cover extra hours," she said.

Sheriff Howe said this shifts the priorities of the deputies.

"I'd rather be patrolling and doing calls than getting tied up with transports," Deputy Kymala said.

Howe said many of the inmates are behind bars for drug offenses. Some are there again after being let out on probation and failing to appear for a court appearance.

Usually, he'll take them to Yankton and Union Counties if he's at capacity. But those jails are full too. A committee has been formed to look at the possibility of an expansion for the jail and courthouse in Vermillion.