Mark Foreman

Mark Foreman

All Jackson County jail employees will get a pay boost of $150 a month starting in April. Their new hazardous-duty extra is to be paid from a recently-implemented fee that inmates pay for their meals in county lock-up.

Jackson County jail administrator Mark Foreman asked last year that the program be tried as a measure that could help him increase employee salaried and therefore compete better for employees in a region where state and federal prisons abound and pay more than the county, and where the local jail also competes with higher-paying area governments that are in a reasonable driving distance of the local corrections workforce.

Commissioners last year agreed to give Foreman 120 days to prove that the inmate subsistence fee could pay for the raises he wanted for his people. He had brought the idea after commissioners told him to help find a solution in the struggle to keep the jail adequately staffed.

Each inmate pays $2.70 a day for his or her three squares. With an average jail population of 241 over the 19-week period of the experiment, the fee raised almost enough to pay the $88,200 it will take to generate the monthly hazard pay for 49 jobs assigned to the jail.

Foreman said that, although Hurricane Michael put a two-week bite in the total collected for meals, because of computer problems brought on by the storm, the program has proven it can support workers’ pay increase, including the additional contributions to benefits totals.

And, he told the board, the daily jail population generally increases in summer. With $32,042 raised over the trial period, and a rough weekly average meal collection of $1,686 going forward, Foreman said it should generate enough to pay the bump in salaries or be within a few hundred dollars if the jail population does not increase as he anticipates it will.

The raise begins in April 1, with all commissioners voting Tuesday to approve it.

The jail is physically capable of housing 320 inmates.

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