ISSUES FINDINGS OF JAIL STUDY
Prudent decision to keep the jail closed and continue to
contract jail services
CT Tuesday, May 27,
The Livingston County
Jail closed more than a year ago, and county officials at this
time do not plan to reopen the facility or pursue the idea of
building a new jail. The findings of a jail study were released
last week, and the county commissioners as well as the sheriff
issued the following summary: "We believe it remains a
prudent decision to keep the Livingston County Jail closed and
continue to contract jail services with Daviess Dekalb County
The county officials
stated that to properly run and staff a jail in Livingston
County would require new sources of revenue with the only option
being from local taxpayers. they also stated that it is
difficult to recruit, hire, and retain the quantity and quality
of detention staff needed when in constant and direct
competition with the Missouri Department of Corrections for
employees. Additionally, the officials agreed that the overall
cost to maintain the local jail is prohibitive and that there is
currently no desire to increase taxes for a jail project.
Associates, a firm that specializes in jails, analyzed the
options: 1) to continue housing prisoners at the DDCRJ; 2) to
determine the feasibility of renovating and reopening the old
jail; and 3) to determine the feasibility of building a new jail
facility in Livingston County. The study included reviewing past
year budgets, staffing expenditures, and other data and that
recommendation reinforced the fact that the decision to close
the jail was the right decision and also that continuing to
house prisoners at the DDCRJ is presently the best option.
A significant issue
beyond the costs of operating at the current location or
building a new jail is the amount of detention staff required to
adequately and effectively operate the jail within known
guidelines and standards of care. The annual turnover rate of
the jail was always a major concern, and it takes a minimum of
three months to recruit, hire, and train each new employee.
Also, with the current county facility being of a linear jail
design, the layout of the facility alone is a huge hindrance in
conducting jail operations.
The county also hired
a local contractor to prepare an estimate of the cost of needed
repairs or renovations to the current facility. In reviewing the
needs of plumbing, AC/heating, duct work, locks, replacing
toilets/sinks, complete camera system replacement, and others
outlined, these alone exceed the financial ability of the county
without additional revenues dedicated strictly for operations. A
new facility is estimated to cost well over $6 million which is
also far beyond the current financial capability of the county.
The county officials
outlined the benefits and negative aspects of contracting with
DDCRJ which are not listed here.
STATE SUPPORT LEAVES COUNTY JAILS STRUGGLING WITH COSTS
By DREW VAN DYKE, MMI
Dec. 12, 2013
CAPTION: Since the Livingston County Jail closed
December 31, 2012, Livingston County inmates have been transported to the Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail
by employees of the jail. This process costs the county $25 per pickup.
The Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail is located roughly 60 miles from
C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley
Mick Covington, executive director of the Missouri Sheriff's Association,
recently discussed the relationship between the State of Missouri and its county jail system.
Counties across the state face similar financial situations and struggle
to stretch dollars to their limit to provide necessary services. But those
required services go beyond just keeping county roads and bridges
passable. Housing prisoners can cost counties hundreds of thousands of
dollars annually, and what little money they do receive from the state
doesn't measure up to meet rising costs of maintenance, food and inmate
There are 103 county jailing facilities in the state of Missouri. Last
year the state reimbursed counties more than $38 million for housing
inmates who eventually end up in a Missouri Department of Corrections
facility. A maximum reimbursement amount of $37.50 per prisoner, per day was
established by statute July 1, 1997, but counties have never seen amounts
close to that figure. According to Missouri DOC spokesman David Owen,
reimbursements in FY 2013 were $19.58.
Covington estimates actual inmate costs run closer to at least $40-$45 per
day. In contrast, he said the federal government reimburses counties
$50-$75 per day for housing federal prisoners.
While the reimbursement total has increased little (it was $17 in 1996),
the same cannot be said for the cost of food, utilities, hygiene products
and health care that must be provided to inmates when they reach the
pre-trial detainee stage. Counties also receive no reimbursements for
those inmates who stay in their facilities but who are sentenced to
probation; those who stay in the county facility, but who are later
discharged with time served; those sentenced to time in the county jail;
or those who are judged innocent of their alleged crimes and released from
the county facility.
County jail inmates are required to pay counties for their cost of
imprisonment, according to statute, but Convington said those persons
often cannot pay their jail costs, even when put on a payment plan. They
just don't have the money.
Neither do the counties.
"It's a very heavy economic drain on the counties," Covington said.
"It's becoming a very serious problem. I'd say every sheriff in the state is
maximizing what they have."
The Livingston County Jail opened its doors in 1978 as a 48-bed facility.
After 34 years of operation, however, the jail was closed Dec. 31, 2012.
According to County Commissioner Eva Danner-Horton, building issues,
staffing issues and the expenses of running and operating the jail were
several factors that played into the final decision to close the jail.
For the past year, Livingston County inmates have been housed instead at
the Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail in Pattonsburg, located about 60 miles
northwest of the city of Chillicothe. Instead of paying for jail
operations and staffing, the Livingston County Commission has budgeted to
pay to house the inmates at Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail.
The commission budgeted $361,900 for the entire year to cover the
county's average 37 inmates per day. The money used in the budget is taken from the
county's general revenue. Thirty dollars is spent per prisoner per
day, plus a $25 transportation fee for Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail employees
to pick up the inmates in Chillicothe. Once an inmate has been picked up
from Chillicothe, Daviess/Dekalb employees provide transportation without
additional cost if they need to be transported back to court in Livingston
County. "They are the only one that I know of who transport the prisoners back
to court, because otherwise we would have to have extra staff and vehicles
to do the transport," Danner-Horton said. "That's something
that's a plus to us."
To date, the county has spent $366,600 on these operations
- nearly $5,000 more than the commission's initial budget.
The Livingston County Commission is working with the Goldberg
Group-Architects, PC, to compare last year's budget and expenditures,
which included the maintenance and operation of the Livingston County
Jail, to this year's budget and expenditures on transporting inmates to
Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail. The analysis will tell the commission
whether it would be beneficial to consider re-opening the jail or to
continue transporting inmates to Daviess/Dekalb.
Missouri's reimbursement system is unique within bordering states. Neither
Illinois nor Kansas participate in any sort of reimbursement plan. Kansas
DOC Communications Director Jeremy Barclay, upon hearing of the Missouri
plan, even referred to it as "kind of generous of the State of
Missouri," saying that his state prefers to keep such matters
"to the lowest possible government entity." Iowa does reimburse counties for inmates at
$50 per day, though it does so less frequently and only for certain offenses.
Iowa's total reimbursements to all counties last fiscal year was just over $1 million.
The State of Missouri is currently at its apex in regards to prisoner
housing, Covington said. "Busting at the seams," is the term he used.
Because of this, the DOC is sending certain prison inmates back down to
the county jails, or letting them out on probation or parole.
"Any offender delivered to and received by the Department of Corrections
is taken into the department's custody," Owen said, in response.
When asked his opinion on why the state government has not stepped up to
the plate in order to rectify the monetary situation, Covington said he
thinks "it's a matter of legislators not realizing the magnitude of the
problem." "It is a black hole that [counties] just pour money
into," he said.
Danner-Horton said that the issue of state reimbursement is one that has
been an issue for quite some time. "That's always a major
issue," Danner-Horton said. "Every year we go to the state legislature and lobby to try
to get them to increase that because it's not enough. The other issue is that we
don't get it on every single one of those days, because they have to be sent on to state
corrections before we get paid. They're state prisoners, yet
we're getting stuck with the cost of it."
Mike Lair said that he was unaware of the issue county jails faced with the state budget
until recently. "Two or three years ago I was asked by the sheriff to serve on an interim
committee that dealt with these problems," Lair said.
"Until that time I wasn't cognizant of the issue. I realized then that most of the
folks that are in a county jail are actually state prisoners, and for the state to
not pay in the amount that it costs to hold them doesn't seem very fair,
so we have pursued that. We've done some things for the sheriffs
and deputies but we haven't dealt with the amount of money that the state pays
and that should be done, there's no doubt about that."
Mo. Governor Jay
Nixon's office sent out the following statement in response to inquiries:
"[Governor] Nixon has been a strong supporter of Missouri law enforcement
during his 27 years in public office and that includes working to ensure
that those agencies have appropriate resources. We will continue reviewing
each issue as the Governor prepares to submit his proposed budget for
Fiscal Year 2015 to the General Assembly in January."
Covington said the current model is unsustainable.
"I think the pertinent thing here is that the criminal and civil
justice system in the state of Missouri is a partnership between the state and
local governments," Covington said. "For some reason,
it's out of whack. There has to be an awakening on behalf of the state and on behalf
of the citizens that the state work towards that 50/50 relationship. How they get
there is the process called democracy and that process needs to take
place. "We cannot continue this way."
The Missouri Judge's Association did not reply to requests for comment on
Constitution-Tribune reporter Calli Price contributed to this story.
Sheriff Reflects on
Year Without County Jail
By CALLI PRICE
Dec. 12, 2013
When the Livingston County Jail closed its doors Dec. 31, 2012 due to
building issues and staff issues and expenses, the county began the
process of housing its inmates at the Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail.
"It's been quite a change," Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox said.
With the closing of the jail, several employees were let go, causing a
little commotion in the sheriff's office. "There's been a lot of struggles with the change as far as the numbers of
people that are gone because our phone still rings all the time and
there's not somebody always here," Cox said. On the upside, however, Cox
said that the past year the deputies have been able to focus on community operations rather than on the jail.
"We had only five full-time detention officers, one part-time officer if
we could ever find somebody to take care of the
jail," Cox said. "That meant that probably 70-85 percent of my time, depending on the day, was
dedicated to the jail; assisting with the detention officers, dealing with
detainees and not being responsible to citizens the way that I really
The need for additional staffing was a major issue when it came to the
decision to close the jail, Cox said. The 48-bed jail was often over
capacity, even holding upwards of 75 inmates at one time. The jail would
even house Linn County inmates at times. This large number of inmates was
often the responsibility of one or two detention officers.
"One person can't effectively take care of 65 people in
jail," Cox said. "The commission couldn't give us additional detention officers and it got
to the point that they couldn't make additional repairs or upkeep with the
jail. The decision was made by everybody to do what we've
Employees of Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail pick up Livingston County
inmates for a fee of $25 per pickup. Cox said that housing the inmates in
a larger jail is more beneficial to the inmates because they have more
employees in charge of the inmates. "Davies/Dekalb has, I believe, 50-some employees that
that's all they're dedicated to, whether it's transportation, intake, medical, housing or
just custody, they take care of that," Cox explained.
"The jail bends over backwards to help us. If I have a complaint given to me about one of the
inmates or the way they're being treated or anything else, I pick up the
phone and speak with someone at the jail, and they look right into it and
it's taken care of."
Recently, Cox posted a question to the community on the Livingston County
Sheriff Office website, asking whether a new jail should be built, if
efforts should be made to renovate the current facility or if the inmates
should continue to be transferred to Daviess/Dekalb Regional Jail? The
majority of respondents thought that taxes should be increased to build a
new jail facility in the county. However, this would cost quite a bit of
money for Livingston County due to the standards jail facilities must
operate under, including an estimated $50,000 fee to implement the Prison
Rape Elimination Act, a newly required federal act.
Cox said that the decision is ultimately up to the members of Livingston
County and the County Commission. "If the citizens want a new jail, if they want this one renovated and
staffed properly, then they need to reach out and share it with the County
Commission," Cox stated. "That's something the commission has to decide if
they want to put on a ballot at some point in time."