County commissioners tour jail to see overcrowding firsthand - KOAM TV 7

County commissioners tour jail to see overcrowding firsthand

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Updated May 12, 2011 at 5:00 PM CST:  Jasper County commissioners today toured the county jail to see problems that have the sheriff sending prisoners to other facilities, overcrowding and mechanical failures.

The lieutenant who runs the jail and maintenance crews pointed out some serious flaws during the tour that indicate prisoners are not completely secure.

In the jail tower, where deputies watch six pods of inmates, most controls panels indicate cell doors that are not secure.

Deputies shared how a control room boards keys sometimes open more than one door at the same time.

The tour took commissioners to showers in pods where mold is a problem on steels doors.

A trip to the roof pointed out soft spots and plumbing works on the second floor can't be fixed without standing on pipes.  Water heaters are located over the computerized locking systems and leaks have disabled it in the past.  And the simplex security system is so outdated there's no service contract.

Presiding commissioner John Bartosh says they have heard some concerns before and it is time to act.

"If we can fix everything I think that would be a lot cheaper than building a new jail," Bartosh says.  "If we can get rid of a bunch of people that will help also.  We have to look at next budget time - get some money in here to fix the jail."

Bartosh is hoping a bill passes in the Missouri legislature approving the use of ankle bracelets to get inmates out of jail as they await court dates.  Inmates would be charged for the electronic monitoring and if they couldn't pay the state would cover part of the cost under the bill.  But that has yet to be approved.

And the sheriff says it takes local judges to implement that, which wouldn't solve the immediate overcrowding problem.

Updated Thursday May 12, 2011 at 12:45 PM CST:  After much discussion and argument about inmate overcrowding in Jasper County, commissioners toured the jail today.

Sheriff Archie Dunn has been shipping Jasper County inmates to other area jails to ease the burden.  But commissioners told the sheriff they will not be responsible for costs associated with housing prisoners at other facilities.

Today commissioners took a look at conditions inside the jail, conditions which Sheriff Dunn says are dangerous and potentially harmful.

Updated April 27, 2011 at 10:00 PM CST:  The Jasper County Commission says it can't afford the sheriff's department's transportation of inmates to other jails.

Jasper County presiding commissioner John Bartosh says if the sheriff were to transfer the 79 county inmates to other counties, it would cost $100,000 monthly.

"Most of the facilities around here are in the same boat we are, but we didn't budget for it," says Bartosh.  "He didn't budget for it. The money is not there for it."

In a letter to the commission Sheriff Archie Dunn says there are huge safety issues at the jail including "most cell doors can be easily defeated (opened) by inmates, and as a result of overcrowding, there are more instances of fights and disagreements among the inmates."

Bartosh says the problems with the locks could have been fixed years ago, when the jail maintenance fund was created.

"The reason they did it was for the locks and the doors," Bartosh says.  "So that's been over five years ago because they did that before my time and they still haven't been fixed."

Sheriff Dunn's letter says the detention center was designed to house a maximum of 153 inmates, but the current inmate count is more than 230.

"The overcrowding that exists in the detention center has reached a point where I believe I can no longer tolerate the gross overcrowding of my jail," the sheriff's letter says.  "To do so would be a violation of my duty."

Commissioners say if Dunn continues to transport prisoners to other counties, Missouri law indicates it is possible he may be personally be responsible for the cost.

Bartosh says there are possibilities in the future, including a new jail.

"We've got to look at ways we can fix it now," Bartosh says.  "We need to start fixing this, you know, like in the next few weeks and get some of these people out of this jail and work on other options."

Commissioners are planning to meet with Jasper County judges and Sheriff Dunn soon to resolve the issue.

Updated April 27, 2011 at 5:30 PM CST:  Jasper County commissioners have a warning for the sheriff: stop transferring county prisoners to other jails or you might have to pick up the tab.

Sheriff Archie Dunn had complained to the commission that the county's detention center is over capacity and says he's made arrangements to transfer inmates to facilities out of the county.

But in a letter to the sheriff commissioners say the county will not be bound by any agreement like that and says taxpayer money will not be used to pick up the expense - roughly $100,000 per month.

The letter goes on to say:  "Be advised that Missouri law indicates that if you proceed with this initiative it is quite possible that you personally may be responsible for the cost."

Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM CST:  Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn spoke to county commissioners today about jail overcrowding and told them he is violating his duty if he allows the situation to continue.

Dunn says the county's detention center has been over capacity for most of the last three years.

He explained the issues that go along with jail overcrowding and told commissioners they were also responsible for the well being of the prisoners.

Dunn told commissioners he has made arrangements to transfer inmates out of the county again at a cost of $40 to $50 per day.

He said he would like for commissioners to create a committee to help him and the county solve the overcrowding issue.

Commissioners did not give the sheriff an answer about his request but have said they want to work with the sheriff to fix the problems.

Posted April 19, 2011 at 6:33 PM CST:  The Jasper County commission looks for solutions to jail overcrowding.  Commissioners discussed the issue today after the sheriff sent prisoners to other jails over the weekend.

County commissioners talked about a proposed state law that would allow the use of ankle bracelet monitoring for those awaiting trial.

Sheriff Archie Dunn says there are costs involved in that just as in housing the prisoners.  He says the jail has been above capacity for months.

The pod holding female inmates has 26 beds but 39 prisoners.  The sheriff says the numbers are pushing up costs.

"Uniforms, blankets, foods, medical, everything has gone up extremely high because we're 60 to 70 inmates over what we should have in that facility," says Sheriff Dunn.  "That facility is not built to handle that many inmates.  I've tried to discuss this with people before and they weren't interested.  I guess now tall of a sudden they're interested now."

Jail overcrowding is an issue statewide.

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