Greene County Jail to once again house Springfield municipal inmates

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 9:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s been years since people arrested in Springfield on city charges have been sent to the Greene County jail because the sheriff said there was no room. That will change in a few weeks when construction on a temporary jail is completed.

In 2015, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott refused to house people who violated city ordinances in his jail, because it was already overcrowded. That led to lawsuits and eventually, an agreement, that the county had until November of 2020 to find enough space for Springfield prisoners.

Starting in just two weeks, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said, things will be back to the way they should be. He said his officers will have access to a local jail, and accused criminals will, hopefully, be held accountable for their actions.

“I think the public’s frustrated," Williams said.

Williams said the struggle over jail space creates even more problems in the city.

“We’re frustrated because we haven’t been able to solve that immediate problem by taking someone out of situation, putting them in jail and getting them in front of a judge," he said.

Williams said on November 9th, his officers will once again be able to book people into the county jail for violating city ordinances and serve outstanding warrants.

“Last time I checked there was an excess of 10,000 municipal warrants out there that we, in essence, have not been able to serve on anyone for the last year or so for sure because we haven’t had access to a jail on a daily basis," he said.

He said officers have still been making arrests.

“There’s some charges that there’s a corresponding state charge, say DWI, simple assault or trespassing, that we’ve been booking on the state charge, but that’s not how the system’s supposed to work and that kind of creates other issues," Williams said.

Major Royce Denny oversees the Greene County Jail for the Sheriff’s Office.

“We focus on putting the people that need to be in jail, in jail and holding them there," Denny said.

Denny said the agreement made in 2017 was based on the original timeline for the new jail.

“I think the initial plan was the new facility would be done in 2020 or around that period of time and then we would be able to house the additional inmates,” Denny said.

He said construction is moving along, and the new jail is set to open in 2022. The trailer expansions at the current jail to help with overcrowding should be completed in mid-November, hopefully by the 9th.

“The temporary jail will fill the void between it being done and where we’re at now," Denny said.

Those temporary trailers will make room for the inmates the county has been sending to other counties, in addition to the city’s prisoners. The jail’s capacity will increase to nearly 990.

Chief Williams said he has a word of warning for those who have been able to skate by for the last few years.

“If you have an outstanding warrant or you think, ‘Hey, things have been rocking along and I have no risk of going to jail,’ that’s about to change," he said.

The Sheriff’s Office and Police Department have agreed that the jail will reserve beds for 48 municipal inmates. Chief Williams said, in the last 20 years, there have never been more than 45 in custody. With so many backed-up warrants though, he said that number could go higher. If that happens, the city will pay extra, with no additional cost to taxpayers.

That’s because, according to Williams, there will be extra money leftover from the contract with Vernon County, where Springfield has been sending municipal inmates who are sentenced to jail time for their crimes.

Major Denny said the jail is in the process of setting up video arraignment options to get Springfield inmates in front of a city judge as quickly as possible to keep the entire system moving along, and to keep bed space available. Denny and Williams said that was a normal procedure with municipal prisoners long before it became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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