Heartland sheriffs talk about increase of inmates in county jails

Heartland sheriffs talk about increase of inmates in county jails
Published: Jan. 11, 2016 at 10:41 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2016 at 10:46 PM CST
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BUTLER COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - County jails becoming more and more crowded is becoming a problem.

Some sheriffs blame the state, while others blame a rise in crime, but either way you look at it, packed county jails come at the expense of the tax payer.

Heartland sheriffs say it costs about $35 to $45 per day to keep an inmate in county jails. While, in many cases, the state is supposed to foot that bill, sometimes it only pays half or none at all, leaving the county with a big bill.

Like many county jails, Butler County is almost always at full capacity.

"Our population averaged about 70 inmates, now it averages about 120," Sheriff Mark Dobbs said. "We would have never dreamed that we would reach capacity in this jail, as many beds as there are, but these days there's just a lot of demand put on county jails."

Many of the inmates are state offenders who end up stuck in county jail instead of state prison.

"The constant flow of inmates that are released from the Missouri department of corrections way too soon," Dobbs said.

Dobbs said often times state prisoners are released on parole. They come back to the county, re-offend, and end up right back in jail. At that point, Dobbs said, the state is supposed to take them back, but that doesn't always happen.

"Now-a-days they pretty much ride out their time out in county jails," Dobbs said.

Dobbs said the state only reimburses them about half the cost of holding those state prisoners. That's tough on the county's budget and Dobbs thinks, part of it, has to do with politics.

"It's really just a farce, it's just a numbers game to where if they don't have as many people in their prisons, then they can present numbers to say they're reforming these people, and that's just not reality," Dobb said.

While Dobbs said he doesn't think a bump in crime rates have much to do with the problem in his county, Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said otherwise.

"I don't think that the crime rate is going to go down anytime soon," Walter said.

Whatever factors come into play, sheriffs agree, something has to change.

"The state tells us they don't have any money, and I understand that, but being a small county, it's very tough," Walter said.

"It's been a long, hard fight and we are still a long way from where we need to be," Dobbs said.

The sheriffs say it's left up to them and the commissioner to stretch the budget and foot these additional costs. They say some smaller counties are facing lay-offs, again, just because they're having to house more of the state's prisoners.

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