Lack of public defenders contributes to Greene Co. Jail overcrowding

Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 9:03 PM CST
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We're taking a closer look at the overcrowding problem inside the Greene County Jail.

At last check, there are about a 1000 inmates, most of which, are waiting for their first day in court.

Part of the overcrowding problem starts in the public defender's office. People often have to wait up to six months before they get an attorney, according to District 31 Defender Rod Hackathorn.

"It's a problem that just kind of builds on itself and it gets worse and worse," he said.

The Missouri State Public Defender's office in Springfield has only 22 attorneys to cover cases in three different counties.

"I don't have sufficient staff to open up every single case that comes our way," said Hackathorn.

He said that this doesn't give his staff much time to dedicate to each defendant.

"I really hate telling people that they have to wait on an attorney. Especially when I'm contacted by family members of somebody who's sitting in jail," he explained.

Money has been made available on the local and state level for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.

Hackathorn said that has only solved part of the overcrowding problem at the Greene County Jail.

"With no additional funding for the public defender's office we're the bottle neck. Really we've been the biggest bottle neck for years and years and years," he explained.

Recently, state and county leaders have been able to free up $25,000 for a pilot program geared at hiring extra help.

"We have contracts with various defense attorneys here in town, many of them former public defenders. Within 30 days we saw significant results on that. Half of those, just within a month or so were no longer in the Greene County Jail," explained Hackathorn.

County officials are hoping the program will continue. This will help people get through the court system, either sentenced to the department of corrections or out of the Greene County Jail.

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