State owes Barry County $304K in jail money

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

$19 million owed to jails statewide

Budgets are already tight for area county jails, and the state being behind on inmate reimbursements is not helping.

The state owes $19 million to jails across the state, and $3 million to six counties in southwest Missouri. Barry county is owed $304,514, and Lawrence County is owed between $100,000 and $120,000 after recently receiving a check for $180,000.

Gary Davis, Barry County sheriff, said the state pays $22.08 per day for inmates, as well as reimbursing departments for deliveries to the department of corrections and trips to pick up out-of-state fugitives.

“State law says they are supposed to pay $37 per day, but that’s subject to appropriation,” he said. “Our bill right now goes back to January. It’s $280,962 in jail costs, $10,976 for deliveries to the DOC as of May 1, and $12,585 for picking up out-of-state fugitives. That’s particularly a lot when my whole budget for 2017 is $470,405.”

Davis said budget-wise, his department is doing well, even though at times the jail has been overflowing.

“We have 21,873 total inmate days this year,” he said. “Our highest count has been 101, and our lowest was 45. We average about 71. If we use every available sleeping space, we have 79 beds.”

Davis said in times when the count is high, like when 101 were being housed, some inmates have to sleep on the floor.

“We can’t afford the $45 per day to farm them out,” Davis said. “That’s not a problem only in Barry County. It’s a problem all across the state.”

In Lawrence County, Sheriff Brad DeLay said the recent payment was well-received, but the county is still owed quite a bit of money. That money, in both counties, also goes into general revenue and not directly to the sheriff’s offices’ budgets.

“The fallacy is people think the money comes directly to us, and it doesn’t,” DeLay said. “It’s split up among all the county offices, and it’s possible we don’t even see any of it.”

DeLay said if he were to received the money, his first goal would be to hire more staff.

“I want to at least get back to where we were before we lost people at the start of the year,” he said. “Second, I would have more people on so we don’t have just one on the road and one in the jail; and third, I would get more space by upgrading our jail facility.”

Lawrence County has 50 beds in its jail and frequently sends inmates to other county to be housed.

“I hope the rest of the money [from the state] comes, because our biggest concern county-wide is to get more money and not be in the red and be able to make payroll,” DeLay said. “I hope the sales tax comes up and the new law enforcement tax is good or we will have a bad Jan. 1, 2018.”

Davis said if things in Barry County go as expected, there will be another $30,000 or $40,000 billed to the state in December.

“Long cases, [like the Christopher Paschall murder trial], hurt us,” he said. “And, if an inmate beats a case in trial, the state pays nothing. So, it’s important to have good cases.”

Davis said he would like to see a change in the jail situation in southwest Missouri.

“I wish Barry County, Lawrence County and even Newton and Stone counties, would build a regional jail that has its own board and operates independently,” Davis said. “It would be self-run and the county would just have to pay for transportation.”

Davis said he plans to ask for more resources and a larger budget when the county decides its budget in coming months. But, as far as the reimbursements, he does not know when they will come.

“I have not heard a word and probably won’t until it gets here,” he said.

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