Experts Identify Needs for Addressing Correctional Security Threats

A select working group of 17 correctional officials and security experts from across the country, convened by the National Institute of Justice, ranked 13 security-threat categories in order of perceived importance. More than 90​ percent​ of the experts assigned “high importance” to the problem of insufficient staffing — more than any other threat category. But the experts articulated the largest number of discrete priority needs in the category of contraband — led by needs related to illicit drugs, weapons, and cellphones. Gangs and violence together comprised another top-level problem for institutions, with gangs seen as posing a fundamental security threat by manipulating or otherwise disrupting operations, according to the working group report developed by RAND Corporation.

RAND and University of Denver researchers organized and managed the correctional security workshop, made up of institution administrators, federal agency representatives, and security professionals, as part of NIJ’s Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative. Key goals of the program were to identify priority needs to guide NIJ’s research agenda and to advance the national discourse on correctional security issues.

Modern security challenges in corrections environments reflect larger social trends. Inside the walls, they are manifested in many ways, including —

Overdose deaths and other substance issues from opioids.
Prison or jail gangs.
An influx of contraband cellphones to sustain inmates’ criminal activities.
Drones delivering contraband over prison walls.
Technology access needed to prepare inmates for reentry.
Cyberattack vulnerability of increasingly internet-dependent institutional systems, such as heating, air conditioning, and communications systems.

To identify priority problems, as well as associated needs or specific requirements to address those needs, researchers first asked the workshop participants to brainstorm areas of need, and then to rank 40 identified needs in terms of priority, each time taking into account both a particular need’s importance, standing alone, and the probability of success of meeting that need. (Thus, a very important need would fall into a lower priority tier if a policy solution did not appear feasible.) The needs were then grouped into five separate themes as well as three tiers, with Tier 1 reflecting highest assigned priority, and Tier 3 the lowest priority.

Significant Understaffing Is a Threat to Security

In many states, correctional agencies are experiencing chronic and severe understaffing. Officer vacancy rates in some states top 45%, according to sources cited in the RAND report. Nationwide, annual turnover in prisons and jails averages 20%, with some states hitting 53% annual turnover. Ultimately, the report said, “inadequate staffing impedes an institution’s ability to deter, prevent, and respond to security threats.”

For state correctional agencies, a lack of the resources necessary for maintaining adequate staffing levels is compounded by a lack of national staffing standards needed for agencies to make a compelling case to legislatures for additional resources. The working group thus called for research to develop models pointing to optimal staffing levels.

A point of emphasis for the working group, in the staffing area, is the critical dynamic between correctional supervisors and officers, which informs institutional culture and impacts security. Supervisors are often prevented from performing adequately because they are forced to fill in for absent officers and because they are spread too thin as they supervise officers, undermining their effectiveness. The working group identified a need for better training of supervisors to engage staff, as well as a need for research into the short- and long-term effects of supervisor shortages.

Contraband in Many Forms Is Saturating Correctional Environments

Contraband in the form of drugs, cell phones, and weapons are common in prisons and jails, the working group reported.

New Drugs, More Drugs Imperil Correctional Institutions

The epidemic of drugs behind bars is worsening with the introduction of substances that are more letha​​l and harder to detect. The working group report noted that more than half of state prisoners and two-thirds of sentenced jail inmates meet the criteria for drug dependence. Inmates spend significant time searching for drugs; drugs hinder rehabilitation; overdose deaths are on the rise; and some drugs cause dangerous reactions affecting institutional and staff security. The working group identified synthetic cannabinoids as well as opioids, including fentanyl, as the most problematic drugs currently in prisons and jails. Exposure to fentanyl is of special concern because small amounts can be lethal when inhaled or absorbed. Staff members as well as inmates are at risk of exposure.

The working group called for a number of actions and research initiatives to detect drugs in the mail, protect mail-handling staff, digitize correspondence, and identify specific drugs, among other innovations.

Cell Phones Facilitate Inmate Misconduct and Crimes

Many correctional administrators described contraband cell phones as their most pressing security concern, the report said. A threat to both institutional security and public safety, cell phones are used to plan crimes, escapes, and attacks on staff and to operate criminal enterprises. Use of contraband cell phones has become so widespread, the report noted, that the head of the Federal Communications Commission stated, “In the hands of an inmate, a cell phone is a weapon.”

One obstacle to addressing the cell phone infestation is a lack of hard facts on its dimensions — national statistics are not gathered by any official source, the working group report said. Conservatively, tens of thousands of contraband phones are collected every year, but that could represent a mere fraction of cell phones in circulation.

Electronic jamming can block cell communications, but federal regulations bar jamming by state and local agencies, and in general the practice is viewed as imprecise and indiscriminate. A more precise technology, known a “micro-jamming,” has shown promise for blocking wireless signals inside a cell while permitting transmissions as little as 20 feet outside the cell, the report said. But the cost is currently prohibitive. The working group urged that state and local agencies should be able to test jamming technology solutions.

Identified needs include development of technology to mitigate cell phone use and support of research to quantify the cell phone problem in correctional environments.

Many Contraband Weapons Are Built to Evade Detection

Contraband weapons can either be handmade by inmates or smuggled into institutions. Often made of nonferrous material — material without appreciable amounts of iron — to avoid detection, weapons held by inmates pose a direct threat to other inmates and staff. The working group called for cost-effective new technology to detect contraband weapons and block their influx.

Violent Gangs Present an Unrelenting Challenge

Overall, an estimated 13% of the inmate population belongs to “security threat groups” — the study’s term for gangs and other criminal organizations. By far the majority are members of gangs working both in the street and in institutions, the report said. Gang activity is linked to increased violence, including homicides, and gangs often control black markets and seek to manipulate correctional staff.

To better combat and neutralize the security threat groups, the working group called for development of best practices beyond existing concentration, dispersion, and isolation approaches. It also called for assessing the potential of existing systems to identify problematic communication patterns. Large volumes of recorded or written inmate communications go unanalyzed, the working group report noted.

Institutions Vulnerable to Growing Cyber Threats

As correctional institutions’ commitment to information technology (IT) systems expands, their commitment to cybersecurity has not kept up, the expert group found. IT is at the core of critical correctional operations — e.g., security systems, HVAC, communications, health and safety platforms — that in many instances are provided or maintained, or both, by outside vendors. Agencies also often maintain large and vulnerable data sets. Security breaches are increasingly common. To address cybersecurity risks, the NIJ-sponsored working group called for development of best practices to address vulnerabilities and guidance for monitoring threats posed by inmates accessing Wi-Fi operating networks in close proximity to institutions.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2013-MU-CX-K003, awarded to the RAND Corporation (RAND). This article is based on the grantee final report, “Countering Threats to Correctional Institution Security: Identifying Innovation Needs to Address Current and Emerging Concerns” (2019), by Joe Russo, Dulani Woods, John S. Shaffer, and Brian A. Jackson. The workshop informing the grantee report and this article was convened by RAND and the University of Denver (DU) as part of NIJ’s Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative, a project of RAND, the Police Executive Research Forum, RTI, and DU.

 

NECAC, Sheriff’s Office Teams Up to Build Tiny Homes

Pictured from left to right: Lincoln County Economic Development representative Elaine Henderson, Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jeremy Ketterer, Senator Roy Blunt’s field representative Jennifer Meyer, Sheriff John Cottle, Senator Josh Hawley’s Field Representative Ben Gruender and NECAC Deputy Director of Housing Development Carla Potts.



Last week, Donald Patrick the President and CEO of the North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) along with Carla Potts the NECAC Deputy Director for Housing Development kicked off their newest partnership with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office…the future construction of tiny homes.

Part of Sheriff Cottle’s Workforce Reentry program for inmates and Lincoln County residents, this joint venture is also aligned with the Saint Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program to provide the skills necessary for meaningful employment.

Members from Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer’s Office were in attendance to provide their continued support to see the workforce initiative grow. Elaine Henderson with the Lincoln County Economic Development team was also in attendance and spoke on the importance of education and workforce reentry for inmates and all Lincoln County citizens.

“We have been arresting people and putting them in jail for 200 years,” said Sheriff Cottle. “Then in a few weeks or months we arrest them again and the cycle continues with no hope of any future or change. This program will help inmates find meaningful employment and move toward a better life.”

Sheriff Cottle, local businessmen and women, the Governor of Missouri, along with members of Congress believe this program will improve the life of every Lincoln County citizen who wishes to enter into the program. The Workforce Reentry Program is expected to reduce recidivism by 30​ percent​.

 
​Lincoln News Now​

Southern District OKs Lengthy Sentence for ‘Board Bills’ Defendant

The Court of Appeals Southern District ruled June 30 that a judge didn’t abuse his discretion in sentencing a high-profile but low-income defendant to more than two years in jail on a variety of charges.

George Richey had argued on appeal that St. Clair County Associate Circuit Judge Jerry J. Rellihan entered the hefty sentence in retaliation for Richey’s role in a landmark 2019 ruling that forbade local courts from imposing jail “board bills” as court costs.

In State v. Richey, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, while counties can charge criminal defendants for the costs of their incarceration, circuit courts have no statutory authority to impose board bills as courts costs. Instead, counties must use a separate process to recover the money. As a result, defendants can’t be brought back into court monthly to review their payments for that debt, nor can the court put them back in jail for failure to pay it.

Six months before the March 2019 ruling, Richey had been arrested on separate charges of drunkenly threatening his neighbors. The following June, Rellihan acquitted Richey of the most serious of the three misdemeanors he faced and sentenced him to 180 days and 15 days on the remaining two charges.

Rellihan also revoked Richey’s probation for three unrelated convictions and ordered him to serve all of his sentences consecutively, totaling 755 days in jail.

Jedd C. Schneider, a public defender representing Richey, argued on appeal that Richey’s stiff sentence was imposed “because he dared to challenge being jailed for debt.” Schneider estimated that Richey would accrue $26,425 in jail board debt during this sentence, an amount he will be “unlikely to ever repay . . . during his lifetime.”

“Did the trial court learn nothing from the Supreme Court’s Richey opinion?” Schneider wrote in a brief. “The answer is seemingly no.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which defended the case on appeal, argued that Richey’s two new sentences were within the allowable range of punishment and that setting all of the sentences consecutively was at the judge’s discretion.

“The record amply supports the sentences given, including Defendant’s aggressive incorrigibility, lack of rehabilitation, and indifference to the law,” Gregory L. Barnes, an assistant attorney general, argued in a brief. “There is no evidence that the court took his previous appeal into account in determining to run the sentences consecutively.”

According to transcripts quoted in the briefs, Rellihan’s only comment on Richey’s sentencing was: “So he’s had many, many, many opportunities to become an active and good member of this community and he’s chosen not to.” Writing for the Southern District, Judge Daniel E. Scott, wrote that the trial judge “did not directly, or even indirectly, link Richey’s sentencing” to any right Richey had exercised or to the Supreme Court case.

The record, Scott added “forecloses Richey’s retaliation claim, and with it, all of Richey’s consecutive-sentencing challenges.” Chief Judge Jeffrey W. Bates and Judge Mary W. Sheffield concurred.

In an interview, Schneider said he doesn’t plan to seek further appeal in the case. However, he is separately representing Richey in an ongoing declaratory action seeking credit for Richey’s earlier improper incarceration for failure to pay the board bill. As part of the Richey ruling, the Supreme Court had thrown out a $2,275 bill Richey received after spending 65 days in jail for failure to comply with an order to pay an earlier board bill.

In addition, St. Louis-based ArchCity Defenders in February had filed a civil rights lawsuit on Richey’s behalf, alleging that St. Clair County’s practices amounted to a “modern-day debtors’ scheme” to raise revenue. The suit, which had been removed to federal court, was voluntarily dismissed on May 6. Corrigan L. Lewis, the ArchCity attorney who filed the case, couldn’t be reached for comment.

That suit also has alleged that the consecutive sentences were retaliatory. At the time of dismissal, Rellihan, one of the defendants in the suit, had argued that judicial immunity protected his actions. He also pointed to the then-pending appeal in the Southern District, arguing that it gave Richey an adequate remedy at law for “any rulings or allegedly unlawful actions taken in his criminal case.”

The appeal is State v. Richey, SD36153. The declaratory action is Richey v. St. Clair County et al., 20SR-CC00008.

 
By Scott Lauck | Missouri Lawyers Media molawyersmedia.com

Jackson County Detention Center To Offer Mental Health Services

From Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté and Jackson County Jail Administrator Diana Turner:

We are pleased to announce that by unanimous vote the Jackson County Legislature approved a contract yesterday for comprehensive mental health services at the Jackson County Detention Center with Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc.

For the first time in the jail’s history, mental health services for the population will be provided to national standards. We regard this as a crucial step in the direction of becoming a premier agency.

“This mental health service contract is a significant step toward our commitment to provide our inmate population a resource for their overall mental health needs,” Sheriff Forté said.

We want to thank the County Executive’s team for their support in this endeavor and the members of the Legislature who continue to make the well-being of our inmates, and the safety and security of our facility, a priority.

Christian County Promotes Two

Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole (center) promoted two members of his jail staff on Tuesday, April 22.

Jason Applegate was promoted to the position of jail lieutenant and Krystal Smith was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Jason Applegate began his career with the Christian County Sheriff’s Office in February 2015 as a corrections officer. He quickly moved up through the ranks to corporal over Transport then later to administration sergeant.

“Jason is a dedicated and hardworking employee. The hard work and dedication he demonstrated is why he was he was promoted to the position of lieutenant over the jail,” the sheriff said.  

Krystal Smith began her career with the Christian County Sheriff’s Office in March 2007, handling many roles during her 13 years of service with the sheriff’s Office.

“She has been a role model and a team player since day one. Her latest assignment was corporal over Transportation. The hard work and dedication of she demonstrated during her time here earned her rank of sergeant within the jail,” Sheriff Cole said.

Photo provided.

Inmate Labor Force Works to Better Themselves, County

Nearly a year after the construction of the evidence storage facility at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, the Lincoln County Jail’s volunteer inmate labor force has been working on other projects designed to better the county – and themselves.

“Last year, She​​riff (John) Cottle built the Inmate Training Center, which is utilized by both inmates and disenfranchised citizens in Lincoln County to better their occupational skill set to land a great paying job,” said Lieutenant Andy Binder, public information officer. “Sheriff Cottle, employees and volunteer inmates started the second stage of construction on the Inmate Manufacturing Building. Inmates will take the skills they learned in the Inmate Training Center and apply to hands on construction of tiny homes.”

Yes, tiny homes.

Lincoln County’ inmate workforce has worked with different non-profit organizations and completed several projects. Several of those included renovating the Britton House, doing landscaping several churches and chopping wood for the Bridgeway Women’s Shelter.

“Look around Lincoln County. We are growing and in need of a qualified and trained workforce,” Binder said.

Binder also said the program has helped reduce the recidivism rate for inmates at the jail.

“(Cottle) has had a long standing vision of reducing recidivism in Lincoln County,” he said. “For many, recidivism is nothing more than lip service use by law enforcement to attempt to justify their policies and/or procedures and offers very little to a long-term strategy to reduce the number of inmates coming through the criminal justice system.

“Inmates with a future are far better off than inmates with none. Sheriff Cottle is showing the people of Lincoln County that (reversing) recidivism can be achieved, and is showing how a local work program can change the lives of families impacted with an incarcerated person.”

Inmates have to request training, or to work, and sign a volunteer form to be accepted into the workforce program. This training is open to all local and federal inmates. Federal inmates and/or inmates who transfer to prison can finish the training at their respective location. Lincoln County’s workforce training mirrors similar federal and state prisons.

Binder said when inmates volunteer for the workforce, they are enrolled in Telify (Missouri Jobs), MoJobs.gov and Connections for Success.

Connections for Success works and trains inmates in construction skills they will use in the Inmate Manufacturing Building. The program also includes curriculum to improve life skills, including balancing a budget, writing a resume and how to tackle personal programs in a more positive and meaningful way, according to Binder.

Once an inmate completes the program,  he earns his apprenticeship through the United States Department of Labor. If an inmate is released prior to completing the program he can still complete it on the civilian side of the training building.

Despite the fact the program is voluntary, or its success, critics might still consider the workforce labor program “cheap labor” or “modern-day slavery.” Binder would say it is giving Lincoln County’s inmates a chance at a better life once they’re released.

“We say, when citizens see (the inmates) working on beautification projects, working on buildings, doing non-for-profit projects, enhancing Lincoln County parks and cemeteries, stop and ask them if they consider themselves ‘modern-day slavery,’ which is a ridiculous statement to make,” Binder said. “ Ask the inmates if they feel like ‘cheap labor.’ Ask them.

“Inmates are giving back to their community in more ways than any of the naysayers. Doing something positive for once in their lives should be championed, not put down. We ignore the noise and keep moving forward because this is not about Sheriff John Cottle, it’s about changing broken lives and impacting Lincoln County in a positive way to enhance the quality of life for all the people.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to create the type of change the citizens of Lincoln County can see and believe.

“We want citizens to say, ‘that guy was nothing but trouble, but now he has completely changed his life and moving in a positive direction.’ Who does not like a success story?” Binder said. “Our goal is to ensure all people in Lincoln County can benefit from the programs Sheriff John Cottle has implemented. That has been the direction of the Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff John Cottle’s leadership. It’s taken a few years to get here but we are moving in the right direction for both inmates and for disenfranchised citizens in Lincoln County.”

By S​hawn Singleton | Lincoln News Now.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

Auditor Galloway Pursues Answers for Missourians about Offender Giveaways

Taxpayers and law enforcement deserve information on funding of Department of Corrections’ rewards program for offenders

State Auditor Nicole Galloway today said her office is demanding answers from the Missouri Department of Corrections on concerns related to the Missouri Offender Management Matrix. The program provides incentives to offenders who are on probation and parole.

Local law enforcement and taxpayers have expressed repeated concerns related to this program and how incentives such as gift cards, vouchers and passes to local attractions are being funded. Multiple media outlets have reported on the issue and the Department has failed to adequately answer these inquiries and explain details of this program.      

“As the state’s independent watchdog, I want answers to basic questions about this program’s funding sources and operations,” Auditor Galloway said. “Taxpayers and local law enforcement deserve to know about the cost of handing out these incentives to offenders. To date, the Department of Corrections has been unable or unwilling to be fully transparent with Missourians.”

The State Auditor’s Office is requesting information on the funding source of the program, the total numbers of incentives disbursed to date, the system for monitoring and tracking incentives, and the amount of taxpayer-funded staff time required for administering the program.  

Read the complete letter here.

Missouri Racks up $32 Million in County Jail Bills

The state owes Missouri counties more than $32 million for housing and transporting inmates who end up going to state prison. Missouri’s tab has been a problem for years, but the amount has grown in recent years by a significant amount. In October 2017, Missourinet reported the state was about six months behind in paying its county jail bills with an overall $19 million dollar deficit.

The shortfall stems from Missouri being the only state in the country that repays counties for part of the daily local jail cost – about $22 – to house prisoners who eventually head to state prison. The average daily local jail cost in Missouri is around $50.

The state House Subcommittee on County Prison Per Diem Reimbursement is trying to find ways to shrink the overall cost the state is piling on. The solutions vary among state elected officials as to how to reduce the financial gap.

During a hearing today, Representative Don Mayhew, R-Crocker, says the state needs to pay its bills.

“I don’t know how we got in this position in the first place, but now we’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”

Several county officials attended to speak about the matter. A couple of them said their counties could not get away with falling behind on their bills and neither should the state.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill says the state owes his county is about $1 million.

“Boone County is dependent upon sales tax for almost 70% of its total revenue,” says Atwill. “For the last five years, that has not increased but our population has increased in that same five-year period by 10,000 residents. We’re in a budgetary squeeze and this is a big part of it. So, we need your help.”

Atwill says Boone County relies on the state tremendously to fill this void.

“The buck doesn’t stop here in Boone County,” says Atwill. “We’re at ground level. We’re the earthworms of government and a lot of things roll downhill to us that we just have to deal with and this is one of them. It wouldn’t be so bad if this were the only thing that we were dealing with.”

Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker says the state owes his county about $400,000.

“We are just underway completing a $35 million jail expansion in Franklin,” he says. “We have a jail with capacity right now – a maximum of 130 that we’ve stuffed 217 in it in a given day.”

Calloway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungerman says the state owes his county about $328,000 from at least the past year.

“Right now, the fear is we’re going to lose it all. We can’t lose it all,” he says. “We’re willing to sit down and talk about the situation and try to figure some things out, but to say that it’s gone is not the correct answer because it’s going to cause many jails to shut down probably.”

Jungerman says the daily cost increases if his jail is short staffed and overtime is needed. Rising utility, meals and healthcare costs also jack up the price. Jungerman says the rising costs are felt by other Missouri jails, not just his.

“We’re booking about 2,800 people a year through our lovely hotel,” he says. “There are many counties across the state in the last few years that have run bond issues because of jail issues. I can’t speak for all those counties, but they passed. But I’ll speak for Callaway County. The general public, the voters of our counties, still believe that criminals need to be in a jail.”

The Department of Corrections gets a set amount of money each quarter to dole out to counties. When the money is out, counties must wait until the next quarter for the chance at getting what they are owed.

Alisa Nelson | Missourinet  

Sheriffs Visit Jefferson City to Get Answers

On February 5th of this year, Sheriffs Wayne Winn (Scotland County), Shawn Webster (Clark County) and Scott Munsterman (Johnson County) represented the region for the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association in Jefferson City. Winn and Webster serve as the leader and assistant leader respectively, for the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association Zone 4, which includes Clark, Knox, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Ralls, Scotland and Shelby coun​​ties. During their visit, the respective sheriffs and MSA Director Kevin Merritt were able to meet with legislators when they visited the state capital to listen to bills being passed around and discussed, during which they had the chance to meet with several senators and representatives in Jefferson City.

Winn was able to sit in and listen to some of the bills being discussed in committee, for which those present gave their support or opposition. Winn mentioned there were a couple of bills they were in support of and a few they did not support.

According to Winn, those who are attending with the Sheriff’s association are from different zones and participation is rotated among those in specific zones. Those who are part of Zone 4 had their turn last week, which would give the senators and representatives a face on who the sheriffs are. The Sheriff’s Association has its own lobbyist too. It should be noted that more direct interaction helps to strengthen relations between the Sheriff’s Association and lawmakers.

When asked if he testified while sitting in on the presentation of the bills, Winn responded. “Kevin Merritt, the director of our association testified on one.”

“We went down to talk to senators about probation and parole, how we’re not getting paid back by the state for per diem, and why probation and parole, releasing prisoners off of probation and releasing them without sentencing them to jail. Early releases, stuff like and plus people that abscond from getting picked up and only being sent to jail and then getting released again after they’ve had to pursue and chase them. One of the things we’re fighting with them right now is the per diem and the money they owe us for prisoners being held and they’re not paying.”

When asked how far behind the state was with reimbursing the county, Winn walked to his office to find the reference sheets, which shows that the state owes Scotland County $23,647.00.

“We’re fighting DOC for this funding,” Winn stated. “The director of DOC said, ‘this is not how other states do it.’ It’s a state law. We’re just asking you to follow state law and reimburse us.” Regarding last year’s reimbursement, Winn commented they were still behind.

Some legislators have offered to help including Representative David Evans, of the 154th District, who is the sponsor of the following house bills:

1519 which deals with bail bonds with modified provisions

1520 which deals with parole conditions

1735 which focuses on per diem costs that jails would get compensated from the state jail reimbursement

Winn said they were fighting an issue with the Supreme Court as the Supreme Court has issued a ruling regarding bail bonds and why Winn said they were not holding prisoners anymore. Because they cannot prove they are a danger to society or a flight risk, they cannot hold them; they can issue a citation, which Winn disagrees with.

“I think some of these crimes are dangerous to society but unless you really get proof of them being a flight risk or being a danger to society” referring to an incident earlier this year in which the jail the court house was destroyed when someone ripped the all plumbing out, leading to a lack of being able to hold anyone in jail until the jail is repaired. He mentioned the property destroyer had set fire to a person’s house before and is currently not in jail. It’s like anything else, if you don’t put a face to what you’re doing, you kind of get ignored. So, we decided we’re going to take a stand and go down and talk to the senators and representatives and just tell them what’s happened and what we’re dealing with. We also went down to tell them the history of jail costs.

“We’re required to accept prisoners, it’s federal law and the liable cost for incarceration and the boarding of prisoners, it’s for the state to reimburse how much they’re supposed to pay us. In 1996 the per diem was raised from $17 to $20. Twenty-six million was authorized in 1997 for county per diem. In 1997 County per diem was twenty-six million; DOC budget was over three hundred million; Missouri State Highway Patrol budget was approximately One hundred and twenty million. In 2019, our county budget per diem was thirty-four to forty million, that’s what the state allowed to be paid back to the counties. The DOC budget was nearly eight-hundred million; Missouri State Highway Patrol budget was approximately three hundred and fifty million; The DPS budget, including the highway patrol was seven hundred and fifty million, so DOC and DPS is 1.5 billion and they’re having trouble paying us back what they owe us.”

The per diem rates highlight the fluctuation of costs over the past twenty-two years.

1998-2002: $22.50

2002-2007: $20

2007-2008: $21.25

2008-2010: $22

2010-2014: $19.58

2014-2015: $21.58

2015-2016: $20.58

2016-2017: $21.08

2017-2019: $22.58

The per diem reimbursement is just for inmates who have gone onto the DOC, and does not include the inmates who have not gone to the DOC.

“This is what we bill for, for the days they (inmates) sit in our jail. If they sit there for six months, we turn it in. Of course, the prisoners get jail credit for those days but that’s what they (the state) pays us back per day for that, even though we charge $35 a day for my jail rate.”

The actual cost of keeping someone in jail includes but is not limited to clothing, meals, accommodations, water rate, not to mention the staff, surveillance, equipment, and insurance. The current state meal reimbursement rate including breakfast, lunch and dinner is $34 a day, which means the jail is being underfunded. When asked where the food came from, Winn said they ordered things from Kohl Wholesale in Quincy, IL including lunch meat and pop-tarts. They also go to J’s to get hot meals. Supplemental items including bread, milk, fruit drinks and tea also come from J’s.

According to Winn, when he first started as sheriff, the jail was budgeting with a local restaurant which was providing all the meals, charging roughly $2.75 a meal, a relatively reasonable price; the bid was raised to $4.25. After deliberation, Winn realized that the raised bid could hurt the budget. Prisoners get fed a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a lunchmeat sandwich for lunch and a hot meal for supper. When asked what was going to happen with the extra prisoners, Winn responded, “That’s what we’re fighting right now and, here’s something else, DOC admits it pays $60 a day to house inmates, but we only get reimbursed $22.58, but that’s still not paying their bill.”

DOC came back with a published article that said a study was done and that offenders were serving fifty-three percent of their time, with a reporter in the committee asking how that percentage was calculated. The fifty-three percent is counting the time spent in county jail.

Time was calculated by looking at time the offenders were sitting in county jail, which counts as time served, which Winn believes is wrong. “To me, when you get sentenced to four years in the department of corrections, you should be going there, serving four years at the Department of Corrections. They give them time for good behavior, they give them credit for time served, which is more than a day, I think it is a day and a half for each day they served in a county jail. So, these people, we take them down to prison and I’ve heard them sitting in the backseat, going ‘I’m only going to be down here for six months’, and I’m sitting there thinking ‘How could this happen?’ Now we’ve got the governor closing prisons, state prisons. Cameron just closed and they are closing Tipton.”

Memphis Democrat