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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The jail capacity issue at the consolidated county-municipal justice center has now reached a critical point for the City of Springfield, according to City officials. Sheriff Jim Arnott announced he would stop accepting municipal inmates for Springfield and other cities in Greene County as of 5 p.m., April 3. The City of Springfield believes the Sheriff’s “take no municipal inmates” policy violates a long-standing agreement between the City and Greene County regarding the operation of the jail. Officials from both organizations have been working together, however, to devise a solution that not only addresses the jail situation, but also addresses bottlenecks in the entire criminal justice system. Officials are also looking at possible funding options for any proposed solutions. The criminal justice system/jail capacity issue is one of the “big three” issues identified by the Joint City-County Task Force in its report released in December 2014. Municipal Court judges and prosecutors have been tracking the impact of the City not having a jail for municipal inmates since the week of April 13. They logged the following examples, but emphasized that this is not a comprehensive list. • Shock time in the jail was not available for multiple DWI defendants with prior DWIs.
• A peace disturbance involving a large party where the defendants had serious criminal histories and were also noncompliant with the police. The police would have taken the defendant to jail to defuse the situation, had it been available.
• Multiple defendants in stealing cases with prior stealing and other offenses were sentenced to fines instead of jail time, or their jail time has been waived due to the jail’s capacity issues.
• A case involving a heroin overdose in which the people involved admitted to using heroin while driving. Jail time is useful in cases like this to convince the defendant to get treatment, but the jail is not available.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said SPD has encountered 327 subjects with municipal warrants who were released, rather than being arrested, since the Sheriff’s decision to refuse to accept any municipal prisoners at the jail. In addition, 59 people who have been arrested and would have normally been booked on a municipal charge have instead been booked on a corresponding state charge. As outlined in the Joint City-County Task Force Report, options to address the City and Greene County’s law enforcement and criminal justice system issues include: • Create funding stream by cutting or eliminating other services.
• Sales tax to raise funds needed for personnel and facilities. Available options include countywide law enforcement sales tax or countywide general revenue sales tax. (New City sales taxes are not an option until the Police-Fire Pension Fund sales tax sunsets.)
• Property tax.
• Court-ordered reimbursement of jail costs by prisoners.
• Continue to request that the State of Missouri honor the statutory commitment to reimburse inmate housing costs.
• Continue to request that both the state and federal governments refrain from mandates which place additional public safety costs on cities and counties.
City and County officials and staff are continuing to meet and discuss ways to best address the challenges of the community’s criminal justice system. “We did not get here overnight, so we will not solve these problems overnight,” says City Manager Greg Burris. # # # For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, at 417-380-3352.