Nominations Being Accepted for 2022 Law Enforcement Design Awards

Editorial Staff, Officer Media Group

The third annual Officer Law Enforcement Design Awards program showcases new architectural designs of law enforcement stations and training facilities that represent the very best in security and technology today.

The call for entries is open for law enforcement facilities built after January 2018. Entries can be submitted in one of five categories through Officer.com/2022LEDA.

 

  • LE Facilities I—More than 50,000-sq.-ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes standalone police stations, sheriff departments, state police facilities, etc.
  • LE Facilities II—Less than 50,000-sq. ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes standalone police stations, sheriff departments or state police facilities, etc.
  • LE Facilities III—Less than 25,000-sq. ft. facilities staffing law enforcement personnel. Includes police stations, sheriff departments or state police facilities, etc.
  • Public Safety Centers—911 dispatch centers, emergency operations centers, etc. as standalone LE facilities or combined with other agencies or organizations such as fire, police, sheriff, state police or local government offices.
  • Training Facilities—Facilities containing classrooms, fire ranges, sim villages, tracks, etc.

Entries will be edited for anonymity and submitted to a panel of judges consisting of law enforcement officers and architects specialized in law enforcement architecture. No judge will have an entry in the award program.

Law enforcement agencies and architects are encouraged to complete Entry Forms for their projects by Sept. 9, 2022 with Portfolios due by Sept. 16, 2022. Upon receipt of the Entry Form, a Project Data Sheet will be sent with the guidelines for the Portfolio. The entrance fee includes a full-page feature for entries in the December issue of OFFICER Magazine as well as digitally online at Officer.com.

Awards include Gold, Silver and Bronze for each category. Gold Award winners will have a two-page spread in the OFFICER December issue as well.

Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to contact their architect or construction firm to submit their projects, not only to be recognized for outstanding design, but to honor the communities served and to spotlight their architectural achievements. 

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Managing Substance Withdrawal in Jails: A Legal Brief

Brief from the Bureau of Justice Assistance | Unsplash Photo by Syarafina Yusof

 

A disproportionate number of people in jails have substance use disorders (SUDs).1

Incarceration provides a valuable opportunity for identifying SUD and addressing withdrawal.*

Within the first few hours and days of detainment, individuals who have suddenly stopped using alcohol, opioids, or other drugs may experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly when they have used the substances heavily or long-term. Without its identification and timely subsequent medical attention, withdrawal can lead to serious injury or death.

Deaths from withdrawal are preventable, and jail administrators have a pressing responsibility to establish and implement withdrawal policy and protocols that will save lives and ensure legal compliance. This brief describes the scope of the challenge, provides an overview of constitutional rights and key legislation related to substance use withdrawal, and outlines steps for creating a comprehensive response to SUD.

Scope of the Challenge

Among sentenced individuals in jail, 63 percent have an SUD, compared to 5 percent of adults who are not incarcerated.3

From 2000 to 2019, the number of local jail inmates who died from all causes increased 33 percent; the number who died from drug/alcohol intoxication during the same period increased 397 percent.4

Among women incarcerated in local jails, the average annual mortality rate due to drug/alcohol intoxication was nearly twice that of their male counterparts.5

The median length of stay in jail before death from alcohol or drug intoxication was just 1 day,6 indicating that individuals on short stays, including those who are detained in pretrial status, are equally at risk.

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience substance withdrawal at the time of entry into jail, when access to their drug of choice is abruptly stopped.

Estimates within specific regions vary widely, from 17 percent of people entering New York City jails being in acute opioid withdrawal7 to a record 81 percent of people entering a Pennsylvania county jail needing detoxification services—half of them for opioid use disorders.8

READ MORE HERE

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Staff Shortages at State Hospitals Causing ‘Workforce Crisis’

 

Hundreds of inmates in county jails throughout Missouri are awaiting inpatient psychiatric care but can’t receive it due to severe staff shortages at state hospitals.

“We are truly struggling with a workforce crisis,” Valerie Huhn, director of the Department of Mental Health, told state representatives at a hearing last week.

In county jails, 160 inmates are on a waiting list for state-run psychiatric hospitals, having been mandated to be treated for “competency restoration” in order to stand trial. Another 65 inmates have been evaluated by the mental health agency and were determined incompetent for trial; the department is waiting for court orders and will add them to the waiting list, as well.

 

But there aren’t enough staff at the hospitals to care for the patients.

Fulton State Hospital, for example, is so understaffed that services in a 25-bed ward have been frozen and the hospital is unable to take new admissions, Huhn said. There are only 761 staff working at the hospital – compared to the 1,176 the department has budgeted for.

At present, the average wait time to be admitted is about six months, a department spokeswoman said. In Boone County, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office confirmed the jail has recently experienced delays in transferring detainees to state hospitals for mental health care. He did not specify how many transfers had been delayed.

The jail does provide mental health services through a contracted health care organization. If the court or medical staff determines that an inmate needs inpatient care, the jail helps coordinate a transfer.

The situation has consequences for patient care. Housing these patients in jails rather than at state facilities means delaying their evaluation and treatment, in some cases prolonging their ability to stand trial, Huhn said. Many can’t be treated in jail settings and their condition will worsen.

 

“We’re trying to bring in mobile crisis so we can at least manage meds,” she said. “But in terms of treatment, group, anything like that to restore them to competency, it’s really just very limited.”

Staff shortages at mental health facilities have been critical for months. In a hearing with members of the state House, Huhn said the department is over-relying on contracted staff to make up for the statewide shortage, further diminishing the quality of care. Every facility in the state is also requiring employees to work overtime, contributing to burnout and turnover. Officials point to low pay for state workers as a key factor in the shortage.

Gov. Mike Parson has proposed a pay increase of 5.5% for state workers, or a minimum wage of $15 an hour. It would include those working at mental health facilities. Parson had hoped the proposal would pass by Feb. 1, but the spending bill that includes the wages has yet to be approved by the House Budget Committee.

“We need to get people back into facilities so we can stop requiring overtime,” Huhn said.

The shortages are not just affecting hospitals. Other mental health treatment centers, including programs that provide substance abuse treatment or work with teens and children, are also struggling with inadequate and overworked staff.

“We literally have people who go on their break and we don’t see them again,” Nora Bock, director of the Division of Behavioral Health, said at the hearing.

But even a pay increase won’t solve everything, officials have noted. Additional inpatient beds are also needed. The governor’s budget recommendations for fiscal year 2023 include allocations for 25 beds and staff at St. Louis Forensic Treatment Center-North, but that’s still not enough to allay the current waiting list.

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Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Why the Little Things are BIG in Corrections

When it comes to communicating with inmates, officers and administrators should always pay attention to the small issues.

By Craig Gottschalk for Corrections1.com

Most people are trained and experienced in dealing with the “big” issues impacting their lives and careers, while their acumen or capacity to address the “little” things seem quite challenged. This is never more evident than in the world of corrections. Whether at the administrative level or during the day-to-day actions of corrections officers on the floor, the “little” things tend to trip up officers and administrators the most.

When it comes to communicating with inmates, officers and administrators should always pay attention to the small issues.

Here are three rules to follow:

Never indicate to an inmate you will do something but not follow through.
Never indicate to an inmate you will do something but not follow through. (Photo/Corrections1)

1. NEVER INDICATE YOU WILL DO SOMETHING BUT NOT FOLLOW THROUGH

This could be as simple as saying you will get an inmate a bar of soap and doing it. Never force an inmate to repeatedly ask the next two shifts to complete a task you had “promised” to fulfill. If you say you will do something, the inmate perceives this as a contract you will personally follow up on. To not do so can create animosity that may never be overcome.

2. NEVER IGNORE THE MINOR VIOLATIONS

Do not look past the little things, or minor violations that can occur in hopes they will go away, or to avoid irritating inmates when an issue is addressed. Make inmates aware when you have identified a minor violation so they know it is not being ignored. Every officer has a broad latitude of options to address violations that occur, and the officer’s response will either demonstrate a level of professionalism that will be respected or incompetence that will be ridiculed forever. Avoid the “it’s nothing really bad – just inmates being inmates” mentality.

3. DOCUMENT EVEN THE LITTLEST OF THINGS

Always take the time to document inmate behaviors or actions that violate the inmate handbook and how the behavior was addressed. Officers hear all the time, “If it is not documented, it did not occur.” This is true with the larger violations and should be the same with minor inmate disciplinary actions and responses.  

Rarely will an officer’s response and warnings to minor violations or the little issues that occur create an escalated or physical inmate attack. The officer will though need to bear the weight and agitated or aggressive verbal responses from inmates airing their displeasure of an officer holding high expectations for inmate behavior.

Inmates will try to place a wedge between officers addressing the little things by saying “no one else does that” or “don’t be such a hardass” (or more disrespectful expletives). They may dial up their manipulative tactics by claiming they will grieve the officer’s actions or discipline. Administrators must ensure their officers trust the grievance process to protect and support their actions.

There may even be feigned attack approaches and aggressive posturing to save face among fellow inmates. This is the dance that officers must learn to analyze and respond to daily. An officer’s ability to “read” these observations and develop an understanding of the individual inmates’ personalities and then balance that with the unit or pod dynamics to maintain control and security in a unit is paramount. 

Officers and administrators must throttle back responding physically and outwardly toward inmates behaving badly. Stepping back and quickly analyzing what truly is occurring and the risks present and then formulating the immediate response and how to package it for presentation to inmates is an art. Each inmate may require a unique strategy to de-escalate and address the misbehavior.

I cannot overemphasize the value humor and sarcasm can play in a corrections setting. Officers who can address inmate attitudes and misbehavior with a light heart and obvious sarcasm will educate and mold inmate behaviors quicker and with more long-term effects than oral tirades and immediate application of restraint responses. The resulting inmate population’s respect for and appreciation of that officer’s uniform, presence and authority will increase.    

I encourage all officers and administrators to look inwardly and assess our “go to” responses to challenging inmate behaviors and rule violations. Determine if you look past the little things and only respond once violations have attained a certain level – or if you address what you observe each time – in order to create an understanding of the behavioral expectations each inmate should adhere to and expect to be held to.

Consistency is the dream. Inmates crave it throughout their days in our facilities. Let’s ensure we meet their expectations. If so, the behavior will generally follow the expectations presented.  

 A senior officer once told me, during my first weeks of training as a CO, “Focus on the little – respond to the large.” No truer guidance have I ever heard.

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BJS Releases Reports on Prisoners and Jail Inmates

Just released: Prisoners in 2020 – Statistical Tables 

This report, the 95th in a series that began in 1926, presents counts of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state, federal, and military correctional authorities in 2020 and includes findings on admissions, releases, imprisonment rates, and demographic and offense characteristics of state and federal prisoners.Findings are based on data from BJS’s National Prisoner Statistics program, which has been conducted annually since 1926. Data are requested from the 50 state departments of corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Read the Summary

Read the Full Report

Prisoners in 2020 – Statistical Tables (NCJ 302776) was written by BJS Statistician E. Ann Carson, Ph.D. The report, related documents, and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs are available on the BJS website at bjs.ojp.gov.

 

Just released: Jail Inmates in 2020 – Statistical Tables

This report, the 34th in a series that began in 1982, describes the number of inmates held in local jails, jail incarceration rates, inmate demographics, conviction status and most serious offense, the number of admissions to jail, jail capacity, inmate turnover rates, and staff employed in local jails.Findings are based on data from BJS’s Annual Survey of Jails, which BJS has conducted annually since 1982, and Census of Jails, which BJS has conducted periodically since 1970.

Read the Full Report

Jail Inmates in 2020 – Statistical Tables (NCJ 303308) was written by BJS Statisticians Todd D. Minton and Zhen Zeng, Ph.D. The report, related documents, and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs are available on the BJS website at bjs.ojp.gov.


The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating reliable statistics on crime and criminal justice in the United States. Doris J. James is the acting director.

For more information on BJS’s publications, data collections, data analysis tools, and funding opportunities, visit BJS online.

 

 

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Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Jefferson County Jailers Save Four Inmates in Two Days, Sheriff Says

​Female cells at the Jefferson County Jail in 2005 file photo by Wayne Crosslin St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Correctional officers in the Jefferson County jail recently stopped one suicide attempt and three opiate overdoses, the sheriff said Tuesday.

Sheriff Dave Marshak credited the work of jailers, both in a tweet and in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, saying he was prompted to recognize the employees publicly in part by the “general conversation about jail safety and jail security” that has been occurring since an inmate uprising at the St. Louis City Justice Center on Sunday night.

“I think sometimes these correctional officers do the most difficult job and they’re often underrecognized and underappreciated,” he said.

Marshak said the three overdoses Sunday night were stopped with the aid of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates. The inmates were then taken to a hospital for evaluation and have since been returned to jail, he said. “Everyone’s recovered. Everyone’s fine.”

An investigation showed that another inmate smuggled a drug into jail in a body cavity, and offered to sell it to others, Marshak said. Drugs are sometimes sold in exchange for food or other items that inmates can purchase from the commissary.

It’s believed the drug was fentanyl. The smuggler may now face new charges, he said.

Although a body scanner is used to try and prevent the smuggling of contraband into jail, Marshak said the drugs may have been hard to detect. “It was difficult to see how it was packaged in the rectum area,” he said.

If the drugs were missed by jailers, that would spark an internal investigation, he said.

The scanner has been used at the jail for two years. “We had an overdose in the past so we thought it was important to purchase it,” he said.

Although expensive, Marshak said, “if you have an incident like that in your facility, you have to look at it from a risk-management standpoint.”

Meanwhile, the suicide attempt Monday involved a woman who tried to hang herself using her pants leg, sheriff’s spokesman Grant Bissell said. Another inmate alerted officers who found her in her cell blue in the face and unresponsive, he said. They called a nurse and an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital where she was being held for a psychiatric evaluation, he said.

“It happens once or twice a year where a correctional officer will see it or be made aware of it and intervene,” Marshak said.

“We have a responsibility to maintain their health,” the sheriff said of inmates.

Story By Robert Patrick | St. Louis Today | https://www.stltoday.com/

NIC’s Becoming Trauma Informed: An Essential Element for Justice Settings Now Available for Viewing

Experiencing or exposure to traumatic events during childhood and continuing into adulthood is all too common. Less known is that trauma is a dominant factor in the lives of individuals involved with the criminal justice system; in what occurs while in the system; and in how transitioning and living in the community is impacted.

With this increasing awareness, criminal justice professionals are considering what this means in their correctional settings, how to manage this population, and provide effective services. Often overlooked is the challenge of staff who are also affected by trauma in their personal and work lives, as organizational stress and trauma create additional challenges for the workplace.

In this Community Services Division-sponsored webinar series, NIC’s Maureen Buell facilitates a stimulating discussion featuring Stephanie Covington, PhD, of the Center for Gender and Justice and Nena Messina, PhD of Envisioning Justice Solutions. This dynamic three part webinar series focuses on the following topics:

1) The Association between ACEs and Criminal Justice Involvement;

2) Trauma Informed Treatment and Theory; and

3) Becoming Trauma Informed and Moving to Trauma Responsive.

As demand outpaced the limited number of registrations, the linked content is now streaming and shareable. The linked content includes the downloadable recorded sessions, a list of resources referenced during the presentations, and a Q&A document that memorializes questions brought up in the chat.

By accessing this robust series you will explore the issues, find helpful answers, and learn from subject matter experts. Below are testimonials from webinar participants. We think you will agree!

Thank you for a wonderful informative presentation.

Thank you, great information I can take to my job.

Thank you for this great webinar and resources. Looking forward to next week’s as well.

Here is the link to the webinar:
https://nicic.gov/series/becoming-trauma-informed-essential-element-justice-settings

Register for Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar

Do you want to see what some of the latest data and promising practices are revealing about staff wellness for corrections officers and staff? Would you like to learn how to apply a holistic approach to your workplace along the continuum of preventive to reactive responses?

If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, plan to participate in the one-hour-long Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar, set for ​1 p.m. February 2.

Correctional staff face significant stress and challenges in maintaining wellness and resiliency in the workplace. There is emerging evidence that effective strategies and programs exist; however, they often occur in a piecemeal or sporadic fashion. This webinar provides academic insight into the current research on officer wellness and references emerging areas of innovative practices.

It includes practitioner expertise on valuable resources and support for correctional officers and staff. We will move from preventive to reactive strategies and build on new approaches to increase resiliency.

Participants will learn what research and practice tell us about the short and long-term effects that working in corrections can have and how to promote staff wellness and manage trauma in response to what they experience.

Learning Objectives : During this one-hour interactive webinar, participants will

1) develop an understanding of the current research on correctional staff wellness and resiliency,

2) learn how to apply a holistic approach to their workplace, and

3) gain knowledge on promising real-world practices that can assist and promote both wellness and resiliency.

Speakers

Dr. Hayden Smith is an Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. His principal focus of study is the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems. Core areas include self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in incarcerated populations, physical and mental health needs in correctional settings, jail diversion, reentry initiatives, and correctional staff well-being and safety. Dr. Smith has expertise in program evaluation and policy analysis and has worked with numerous correctional and health systems.

Ms. Karin Ho is the Director for Victim Services with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. She has more than 30 years of victim advocacy experience and over 25 years in corrections. Recognizing how correctional staff were affected by traumatic events, she implemented the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Peer Team and Post Critical Incident Seminars for employees with ongoing trauma-related issues. As part of the CISM Team, Karin is the handler for a specially trained trauma dog who responds to correctional staff throughout the state.

The presenters have engaged in several academic-practitioner partnerships that address correctional officer and staff well-being.

Who Should Attend ?

Any employee of a state, federal or local correctional jurisdiction.

How Do I Register ?

Follow this link to register in NIC’s WebEx Event Center: 
https://nicmeetings.webex.com/nicmeetings/onstage/g.php?MTID=e0f972cfffb0d108afe22ad03ebacadfc

For content and technical information, contact Scott W. Richards, Correctional Program Specialist, NIC Prison’s Division at s1richards@bop.gov

How Do I Participate Effectively In a WebEx Event Center Webinar? How Do I Get Ready ?

  • For the best experience in your next NIC WebEx Event Center webinar, you’ll need a hands-free telephone, headset or earbuds, and an internet-enabled computer.
  • For optimum learning, be in a quiet place, free from distractions/interruptions, sight-and-sound separated from others, where you can concentrate on what is happening during the webinar. A separate office space with a door to close is an ideal setting.
  • Connect to the webinar audio bridge via a hands-free telephone, using earbuds/headset connected to your phone/cell phone, so your hands are free to interact with your keyboard.
  • While tablets and smartphones are also compatible with WebEx Events Center, several of the features are limited, and most devices require the installation of the Cisco WebEx app.
  • Regardless of which device you plan to use, test its compatibility here. The link provides a quick test, and we strongly encourage you to do this before the webinar.
  • If your browser does not pass the test, contact Webex Technical Support at 1-877-669-1782 and tell them you will be attending an NIC webinar on NIC’s Webex site at http://nicmeetings.webex.com . They can help you troubleshoot connectivity issues.
  • NIC strongly recommends consulting with your agency/local IT , as you may encounter pop-up blocking and/or firewall issues that block the NIC Webex webinar url.


Click https://nicic.gov/webinar-vilt-readiness for further information on NIC’s live webinars, including (cost = free!), how to obtain training credit from your agency, and much more.

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