Scott County commissioners inquire about large bill for housing of prisoners

Friday, June 19, 2009 ~ Updated 4:17 PM

BENTON, Mo. -- Scott County has experienced big jail populations this year -- which means it has to pay to house the overflow in other facilities.

During Thursday's meeting, commissioners approved a $9,000 bill to Scott City's jail for the months of February through April. In all, about $18,000 of the $45,000 budget for housing prisoners was spent by the end of April.

Concerned with the cost, they spoke with sheriff's department officials about the overflow. And, it could be a result of tough economic times, said Sheriff Rick Walter.

"We've got some people over there that have been there for awhile," said Sheriff Rick Walter.

For instance, one prisoner has been in custody for a month and a half on a $50 bond.

"People just don't have the money," said Walter.

Housing prisoners is a big cost to the county, though. "We're feeding these people three times a day, giving them medicines, etc.," said Ron Furlow, jail administrator. "Out of the 90 or so people in jail, probably 40 to 50 of them should not be there anymore. And, we pay between $15 and $20 per day each."

One issue jail officials have seen, in addition to the cost, is that since the jail is so full, many of the inmates are out of control and tearing things up, said Walter. He noted that the situation drops the maximum number the jail can hold from 110, since certain prisoners must be separated for several reasons.

The county is still in talks with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials about boarding those prisoners for pay. Walter said he recently received notification the county was approved for a certain amount of money to board prisoners in the last quarter of the year.

"But it's hard to think about ICE prisoners with the problems we've got now," said Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn. "I just don't know how to address this."

Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger agreed. "We have to hold them, because we are bound to do so," he said. "But we're always talking to the Sheriff's Department, prosecutors and judges about getting people through the system."

In other news, commissioners approved the purchase of computer software that will allow GIS addressing from the dispatching unit. Deputy Tom Beardslee, who supervises the E-911 program, said he and County Developer Joel Evans will do the addressing.

"I'm ready to go," said Beardslee. "Once I have it on the computer they'll drop a cable from the server to the computer."

Commissioners approved a bill from Environment Systems Research Institute in St. Charles for $1,350.

The assessor's office has similar software it uses, but for different reasons.

"I'm all for doing this because it will give us an off-site place for GIS," said Burger. "I hate to be dependent on any one person or computer."

Pertinent address:

Benton, Mo.

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