Scott County commissioners inquire about large bill for housing of prisoners

Saturday, June 20, 2009

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 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. 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 a while," 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, Walter said. He noted that the crowding lowers the maximum number the jail can hold from 110, since certain prisoners must be separated for various 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."

Pertinent address:

Benton, Mo.

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