Officials with the Springfield Police Department say they need a new jail to house inmates, and are looking at Joplin's city jail. Documents written by the City of Springfield show the Greene County Sheriff's Office is no longer accepting municipal inmates from the City of Springfield. The Greene County sheriff says his jail is too full too often.
Joplin's police chief says it's not unusual for a community in Missouri, like Springfield, to not have its own jail.
Joplin city council members say the offer from Springfield's police department is opportunistic.
"We've just gone through a hard budget time," says Joplin Councilman Phil Stinnett.
Documents written by police and city officials in Springfield say there's no longer a local jail option for them.
"Springfield has a need, and Joplin needs to produce more revenue," says Stinnett.
So the City of Springfield wants to transport municipal inmates to Joplin, and pay Joplin $50 per inmate per day. Springfield would also pay for inmates' health needs. In an off-camera interview, Joplin Police Chief Matt Stewart says Joplin's 64-bed jail is full about six times a year. Stewart expects Joplin's jail would house ten prisoners a day from Springfield, if Joplin's jail is not already full of local offenders.
"Ultimately, my biggest concern is just the citizens of Joplin feeling safe," says Joplin Councilman Taylor Brown.
Stewart says 99% of Springfield inmates in Joplin would only have failure to appear warrants, based off of misdemeanors. But Joplin city council members are still worried there's a chance the Springfield inmates would be released in Joplin without transportation.
Brown says, "I think it's a totally valid question for us to ask, and make sure that's in the contract, is there anything Springfield can do to get these prisoners back home, once released?"
"I don't think that anybody would really want to see someone let out of jail, and have no opportunity to get anywhere but in your community," says Stinnett.
Joplin's police chief says the possibility of Springfield inmates released in Joplin doesn't worry him, but it's something he will monitor. The proposed contract can be canceled any time with 60 days written notice.
Stewart says the Springfield Police Department still has an inmate contract with the Taney County Sheriff's Office. According to Stewart, if this proposal is approved by Joplin City Council, Springfield inmates would be transferred to Taney County if Joplin's jail was too full. The police chief of Springfield hasn't returned our phone call for comment on this story.
Stewart says this proposal would also mean more people caught with warrants in Joplin or Springfield would be extradited to either Joplin or Springfield, whichever city issued the warrant.
Joplin City Council members will discuss this proposal at their next council meeting.
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