CASPER, Wyo. — A decline in the number of federal prisoners at the Natrona County Detention Center is not likely to reverse itself anytime soon, U.S. Marshal Joe Moore told the Natrona County Commission Tuesday.
A decline in prisoners means a decline in revenue for the county's adult detention center, where renovations more than doubled the bed count in 2006. The decline is a cause for concern for county commissioners, who have wondered whether the downward trend and its resulting revenue decrease will turn around anytime soon.
Moore, the U.S. marshal for the district of Wyoming, attributed the county’s lull in federal prisoner intake to a decline in federal prisoners throughout the district. He also said the Marshals Service’s obligation to fill 50 beds at a detention facility in Scottsbluff, Neb., leaves few federal prisoners for Wyoming jails.
He told commissioners he “relies heavily” on Wyoming counties to house federal prisoners because the state has no federal detention facility.
“We make every effort to house federal prisoners in Natrona and other (Wyoming) counties,” Moore said. But there are circumstances that draw prisoners away from Natrona County’s detention center, he said, including the service's contract with Scotts Bluff County and the need to assign prisoners near their counsel and where appropriate medical treatments are available.
The Marshals Service’s federal prisoner count is low overall, Moore said. When Moore was sworn in as marshal, the district of Wyoming housed about 140 federal prisoners, he said. Today, that number is 87.
He attributed the slump to typical cycles in crime.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 40 years,” Moore said. He has seen periods when the Marshals Service has “more fugitives than we’ve known what to do with,” and periods like this one, when fewer federal charges mean fewer federal prisoners in general.
Moore stressed that the decrease in federal prisoners at the Natrona County Detention Center was not due to the recent federal budget cuts known as sequestration, and was not a result of problems with the facility itself.
Natrona County’s agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service guarantees 15 beds for federal prisoners at the county’s detention facility. Over the past few months, the facility has averaged about 10 federal prisoners a month, Moore said.