Class D felons may soon be held in county jails

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Missouri hopes to save $26 million by closing down a state prison.

To do so, Class D felons would not be sent to prison unless they have been convicted of two previous felonies.

Instead they would spend time in the county jail.

Butler County Sheriff Mark Dobbs says if the bill passes, he expects to see a significant increase in prisoners at the Butler County jail.

He says the jail can take on more prisoners and is equipped to hold them for an extended sentence.

However, smaller counties, such as Ripley County, don't have that luxury.

"If we had local facilities that could house them, I would have no objection," said Ripley County Prosecutor Chris Miller.

Miller says sending Class D felons to county jails instead of state prisons doesn't mean they will do less time.

Sheriff Dobbs says avoiding state prison doesn't mean convicted felons will have a walk in the park.

"There's a lot less privileges and things like that for the inmates so there's a lot of them that prefer to go to the state prisons as opposed to doing a year in the county jail," he said.

While the Butler County Jail is only two-thirds full, Ripley County must share space with the Doniphan Jail.  Miller says this bill will lead to unnecessary overcrowding, and put even more of a strain on the county jail budget.

He also says serving time in a state prison is a deterrent for crime, one that he may soon no longer have.

"If you let them go, they are going to try again," he said.  "There has to be an opportunity to put those people in the department of corrections where they can do some serious time."

The author of the bill says it's not about passing the buck to the county level.

He says the state just can't afford to keep the 30,000 inmates in Missouri incarcerated.

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