Marion County Sheriff Shares Consequences of Bearing Costs of State Prisoners

In this file photo a Marion County corrections serves supper to inmates through the pod door chuckholes. Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn said the Missouri Department of Correction owes the county more than $200,000 for housing state prisoners.  Courier-Post file photo.

 

Missouri counties paid approximately $41 million in incarceration costs for state prisoners last year, according to an audit released Wednesday by State Auditor Nicole Galloway.

Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn, was not surprised by the audit results. Shinn said as of Dec. 11 the state owed Marion County $201,615 for housing state prisoners and then transporting them to prison.

“The problem is not getting any better,” Shinn said. “Sheriffs across the state fight this on a yearly basis. This makes it very difficult to budget revenues because we do not know when the state is going to pay or how much.”

The findings were discovered during an audit of the state’s County Reimbursement Program, which is administered by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The program is responsible for the reimbursement of county governments for certain costs associated with the housing and transporting of state prisoners.

The audit found that a combination of delayed reimbursements due to a lack of state funding and increasing incarceration costs have delayed the reimbursement of counties.

“Local taxpayers are footing the bill because the state has not been keeping up its end of the deal and the cost of incarcerating state prisoners is increasing,” Galloway said in a media release. “This is an issue throughout Missouri, but is particularly concerning for smaller communities where revenue is especially limited.”

According to Shinn, the Department of Corrections reimburses counties at a rate of $21.58 per day for state inmates.

“That is nowhere close to what it costs to house them here. This rate is set by our state with no negotiation,” he said. “Our estimate is it costs us approximately $45 per day for housing, meals, staff, etc. to house an inmate at this facility.”

According to the audit’s findings the reimbursement rate paid by the state has kept up with inflation over the past 10 years, but it is essentially the same as the rate paid in 1998, despite the fact that incarceration costs have continued to increase. Based on actual costs a more realistic reimbursement fee would be $49 a day, auditors said in the report.

There are some state prisoners for which a county will never see a cent of reimbursement.

“If a subject is charged with a state crime they could sit in the Marion County’s jail for six months because they can’t post bond, then courts put them on probation. We do not get monies from the state for this,” Shinn said. “We only get monies from the state when a subject hits the Department of Corrections.”

According to the audit, as of June 30, 2020, the state owed about $31 million to counties that it did not have the appropriation authority to pay. In fiscal year 2021, the General Assembly approved $52 million for county reimbursements, which includes $9.75 million for unpaid reimbursements. Galloway said that amount would address only about one third of the outstanding claims still owed to counties.

The audit found that the Department of Corrections has not requested sufficient funds to pay the outstanding reimbursement claims and past budget requests haven’t included information about the previous years’ shortfalls. Auditors recommended that the department request the money necessary to pay all obligations and ensure the financial history of the program is included so the legislators have an understanding of how much is owed to county governments.

“I have tried to speak with our (state) representative and senator frequently and express our issues with this budget problem. I have done this for several years now. They both are well aware of this,” Shinn said.

Auditors surveyed counties to better understand the impact of low reimbursement rates and delayed payments. According to these local officials, issues with state reimbursements resulted in not having enough revenue to cover jail costs and, as a result, having to reduce other services or increase local tax rates. Additionally, lack of revenue leads to difficulty in hiring new sheriffs’ employees due to low salaries or lack of equipment.

Shinn said that overall, through 2020, the Marion County Jail has generated over $900,000 in prisoner board bills. This includes fees paid by neighboring counties that ​​house inmates in the Palmyra facility, the state reimbursements and through federal inmate housing reimbursements.

“We are hopeful and optimistic that these relationships continue as we know and understand that this affects the overall budget for Marion County,” the sheriff said.

​By ​Danny Henley​ | Hannibal Courier Post​

Auditor Galloway Says Jail Reimbursement Program Costing Missouri Counties Millions

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway says a jail reimbursement program is costing counties millions.

She released an audit of the County Reimbursement Program on Wednesday. The program reimburses county governments for certain costs for housing and transporting state prisoners. The program is administered by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The audit found a combination of delayed reimbursements due to lack of state funding and increasing incarceration costs has resulted in the necessity for counties to rely on local resources.

“Local taxpayers are left footing the bill because the state has not been keeping up its end of the deal and the cost of incarcerating state prisoners is increasing,” Auditor Galloway said. “This is an issue throughout Missouri, but is particularly concerning for smaller communities where revenue is especially limited. Our audit clearly outlines the facts and details the problems with this program so that the legislature can evaluate the information and make changes.”

Under state law, counties can be reimbursed for criminal costs, prisoner transportation and extradition costs for state prisoners. Counties submit claims throughout the year for these expenses and the Department of Corrections processes these payments on a first come, first served basis. However, state appropriations have not been sufficient to cover reimbursement claims.

As of June 30, the state owed about $31 million to counties it did not have the appropriation authority to pay. In fiscal year 2021, the General Assembly approved $52 million for county reimbursements, which includes $9.75 million for unpaid reimbursements. This addresses about a third of the outstanding claims still owed to counties.

The audit reported the Department of Corrections has not requested sufficient funds to pay the outstanding reimbursement claims and past budget requests haven’t included information about the previous years’ shortfalls. The audit recommended that the department request the money necessary to pay all obligations and ensure the financial history of the program is included so that legislators have an understanding of how much is owed to county governments.

Additionally, while the reimbursement rate paid by the state has kept up with inflation over the last 10 years, it is essentially the same as the rate paid in 1998. During this time incarceration costs have continued to increase. The state provides a reimbursement of $22.58 per day, but actual costs average closer to $49 a day. The increasing difference means counties have to subsidize the cost of housing these prisoners. The audit found that counties subsidized an estimated $41 million in incarceration costs for state prisoners during the 2020 fiscal year.

Auditors surveyed counties to better understand the impact of low reimbursement rates and delayed payments. According to these local officials, issues with state reimbursements resulted in not having enough revenue to cover jail costs and, as a result, having to reduce other services or increase local tax rates. Additionally, lack of revenue leads to difficulty in hiring new sheriffs’ employees due to low salaries or lack of equipment.

The audit also found inconsistencies in the law related to reimbursements. Under the law, the state reimbursement rate can go up to $37.50 a day, but is subject to appropriations. However, there are varying interpretations of the statute because this language is not consistent with how reimbursements are set (on a per day basis) and how state funds are appropriated (by year). The audit recommended that the legislature amend the statute to clarify the intent of the law so local officials can better understand what to expect from the state reimbursements.

The complete audit report is available here.

By KY3 staff | KY3.com

Supreme Court Responds to Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Jails, Prisons

In response to questions about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in prisons and county and city jails, ​on March 30 ​the Supreme Court of Missouri sent all state judges a letter calling attention to the various rules and statutes governing pretrial release of individuals charged with offenses but not yet found guilty as well as those governing release of individuals who have been found guilty and sentenced. 

 
In doing so, the Court leaves decisions about the release of any particular individuals to the discretion of local judges to make appropriate decisions under the facts and circumstances of each particular case. 
 
The verbiage of the letter, ​which is ​available on the Missouri Courts’ COVID-19 alerts page, is included below:

Re: Jail Populations and the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Dear Judges,

As a result of recent inquiries regarding the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in prisons and county and city jails, the Supreme Court of Missouri wants to call attention to the following rules and statutes.

In 2019, this Court revised its bond and pretrial release rules. Rule 33.01 addresses a defendant’s right to be released from custody pending trial. Rule 29.18 provides individuals detained as a result of a probation or parole violation also have a right to release prior to any final hearing on the matter. Likewise, Rule 37.15 addresses a defendant’s right to be released from custody following an ordinance violation.

Once a defendant has been convicted and sentenced, the power of courts to order release of an incarcerated offender is governed by statute. Missouri courts have the statutory authority to release an offender sentenced to a term in the county jail on judicial parole. Specifically, section 559.100.1 provides:

The circuit courts of this state shall have power, herein provided, to place on probation or to parole persons convicted of any offense over which they have jurisdiction, except as otherwise provided in section 559.115, section 565.020, sections 566.030, 566.060, 566.067, 566.125, 566.151, and 566.210, section 571.015, section 579.170, and subsection 3 of section 589.425.

This authority is limited by section 559.115.1, which provides: “Neither probation nor parole shall be granted by the circuit court between the time the transcript on appeal from the offender’s conviction has been filed in appellate court and the disposition of the appeal by such court.”

Section 559.115.2 further provides that, subject to the limitations in section 559.115.1 and 559.115.8, courts “have the power to grant probation to an offender anytime up to one hundred twenty days after such offender has been delivered to the department of corrections but not thereafter.”

The Court appreciates your continued efforts to prevent the spread of COVID19 in your respective jurisdictions.

Sincerely, GEORGE W. DRAPER III Chief Justice