Overcrowded Jail

1 decade 1 year 1 week ago Tuesday, July 10 2007 Jul 10, 2007 Tuesday, July 10, 2007 11:18:52 PM CDT July 10, 2007 in News

Look past the bar windows, the security cameras, and the locked doors. Inside, the Cole County Jail is stuffed full.

"The prosecutor made the statement the other day that he believed that there was somewhere between 50 and 100 people that should be locked up right now, but we don't because of lack of bed space," said Cole County Sheriff Greg White.

Fifty-three beds aren't enough nowadays in the Capital. In order to make room, the Cole County Sheriff's Office and the prosecuting attorney are having to sacrifice.

"And as I say we lose those bond arguments more often, because the defense attorney always ends their argument with, 'well judge, the jail is full anyways,'" said Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson.

With these conditions, some of those inmates walk free before their day in court comes.

"We've got people who have gotten lesser sentences we believe simply from the stand point that there's... there's not the bed space," said White.

The other option for the Sheriff's Office is to rent out space in neighboring county jail houses, despite its high costs.

"If we had an additional 40 people right now and we had to put them up in Pettis County, that'd cost us $2,600 a day, multiply that by 365 for a year, and that's $949,000, which is in the vicinity of what we have in county reserves," said White.

Luckily, there are only fifteen extra inmates sitting in the Pettis and Callaway county jails. However, renting space is expensive, and not something Richardson and White want to face.

"We also believe that it's a financial issue for the county and again the potential is there to drive the county into bankruptcy by just doing what the statute requires that we do," said White.

Cole county voters will face an option in August to add a half-cent sales tax increase which would pay for a bigger jail. A new jail is currently in the works to alleviate the problem.

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