Former circuit court judge says Boone County Jail can "tighten up ship"
COLUMBIA - The Boone County Jail was no stranger to the state-wide problem of rising jail populations. Retired 13th Circuit Court Judge Gary Oxenhandler decided to conduct a study that identified the probable cause of this issue and provided commentary on possible solutions.
He presented the 2017 Boone County Jail Population Study on Wednesday to the Boone County Judicial & Law Enforcement Task Force in a public meeting at the Boone County Government Center Commission Chambers, four months after he started research during December 2016.
“He finished the report about 10 days ago, but this effort goes back many many years. This report reflects a different reality that we were facing 20 years ago,” the chairman of the task force, Rusty Antel, said.
Oxenhandler said jails are filled with misdemeanor commits, which people in attendance agreed was a problem.
He also spoke to what he called “stakeholders,” or individuals who played a hand in the Boone County jailing process. Through these conversations and additional research, he was able to explain the history of the Boone County Jail, identify sources of current increase in population, and determine whether the increase was short or long term.
The Boone County Jail opened in 1991. Four months later it was at capacity.
According to the report, "In 2016, detainees exceeded the space available at a daily average of approximately 44 detainees."
The report also stated, "Space appears to be running low, professional staff is a vanishing resouce, money is short and though housing in other facilities is currently a viable, cost-saving alternative, it is likely that such space is a disappearing commodity."
Oxenhandler said stakeholders were "not supportive of the construction of additional jail facilities at this time."
This unanimous decision stemmed from stakeholders' inability to find financial and professional staff support.
Judge Deborah Daniels said the report benefited everyone in Boone County.
“It helps digest for us very complicated problems in an easy understandable way,” Daniels said.
“To look at all of the many issues that weigh into do we really need to build another jail, what should we be considering as alternatives to incarceration, what should the judges be considering when we issue a warrant to set bond.”
Four members of the community harnessed the opportunity to raise various related concerns such as detainees’ mental health, job retention in the jail and bail bond prices.
The former judge said the Boone County Jail should hire a consultant who had more expertise than himself to further identify what its needs are.
"I think there’s more toothpaste that can come out of this pack,” Oxenhandler said.