County takes PA to court over housing prisoners

David Yates Apr. 23, 2007, 2:00pm

After nearly three years of fruitless squabbling, Jefferson County finally figured the only way to squeeze any money out of the city of Port Arthur for housing its prisoners was with a litigation grip.

Acting on the behalf of the county, Assistant District Attorney Tom Rugg filed a lawsuit against Port Arthur for refusing to pay a $52 fee to house felony and Class A and B misdemeanor violators. The suit was filed in the Jefferson County District Court on April 20.

"These services are governed by a contract sent to defendant on Aug. 27, 2002, which provided that a $52 fee be paid for the housing of prisoners," the suit stated.

The suit goes on to say that back in October of 2004 it became apparent to the county that it had not been billing its cities for sheltering prisoners. The county wrote a letter to all cities informing them of the oversight "and that they would begin being charged for such services."

Port Arthur, like most Golden Triangle towns, lack city jail facilities and rely on the county to lock up lawbreakers.

According to a Port Arthur News article, the county claims the city owes more than $200,000 for housing some Class A and Class B misdemeanor and some felony prisoners, those who are arrested without warrants.

County officials have said that Port Arthur is the only Jefferson County city that has not paid for the housing of prisoners.

However, the county contends that it did not request back payment upon revelation of the clerical error.

The suit says the county will sue for the amount unpaid since October 2004 and all court costs. "As a result of defendant's breach of contract, plaintiff has sustained financial loss."

Court assignment is pending.

Case No. A179-146

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