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 counties. 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.
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.”