Sheriffs in the Ozarks say revolving door of inmates at county jails becoming costly

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The state of Missouri owes over $32 million dollars to counties in jail reimbursement payments. It's debt that keeps growing every year.

That lack of funding paid to county jails impacts our local counties in more ways than just money, and it also means more of a revolving door for repeat offenders.

Local sheriffs tell us it's all connected. The state isn't paying what's owed to the county. Counties are being forced to hold state inmates for longer, and inmates know that even if they do violate their probation or parole-- they know the state can't afford to take them back, and doesn't have the space for them.

"I'm seeing the same people coming back over and over and over. Probation and parole, they are not testing, they are not holding them," said Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase.

A repeat offender admitted in a probable cause statement that he only reports to his probation officer once a month, so he can do what it takes to get a clean not-so-random drug test.

"All I have to do is clean up for a couple weeks and then I can use drugs as soon as I provide my test," Degase showed us in the offender's court record. Degase says convicts and parolees well know prisons are jammed, money is tight and they probably won't go back for long.
"The judges are not going to give maximum sentences and throw away the key. They can't do that in every case," said longtime defense attorney Dee Wampler. "Is it somewhat of a revolving door? Yeah, it is, by necessity."

Wampler says even drug treatment programs are overwhelmed.

Degase says the state needs to pay up what they owe county jails, and says shutting down northwest Missouri's prison is a bad idea. He would rather spend the money to lock up offenders for longer.

"We deal with them everyday. They go to prison, they do an 18-month long term re-hab and they'll come out and the first thing they do is get high," Degase explained. "They have to want that change."

Degase says you can't force treatment on someone and expect success. The vast majority of prisoners in MO are incarcerated for felony drug offenses.