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Big Changes in Legal System


 

 

The Missouri Supreme Court has changed 2 things which will significantly impact our judicial system.

First is the ability for non-violent offenders to post bond on new charges. Meaning when a person commits a felony and it was not a violent offense the law enforcement officer has to articulate how that individual is either a danger to others, the community or themselves and/or articulate why the individual is a flight risk to not appear in Court.

This will minimize the number of pre-trial detainees in jail and the principle is to be fair to indigent persons who may otherwise lose their employment and suffer in other ways. Additionally this will also reduce the amount of money the State of Missouri will be required to reimburse the counties for detainees who are sent to serve a prison sentence. Although most felony cases end with probation this will still impact the minimal off-setting costs counties receive for jail expenses.

The second change from the Supreme Court is on convicted detainees being required to pay their board bill. Missouri law was in place but the language of that statute was argued to show it gives the courts no grounds to order payment of board bills to the county. Meaning now we have to jump through a process to potentially be able to obtain future state tax refund or funds if the former detainee were to win the lottery. Otherwise the county sheriff and/or prosecutor have to file civil suit against the detainee and then attempt to collect. Either way this will take a significant amount of work and for most Missouri counties require additional staff to attempt to collect funds that may not be collectable through civil process.

Currently Livingston County collects an estimated $100,000 per year which is used to off-set board bill and detention costs. We may save some tax payer money on the potential reduction of pre-trial detainees but I doubt it will amount to $100k. We will make it through this and we are working on ways to hold people accountable for their board bills. Missouri law is clear on prisoners are responsible for their costs of confinement.

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The Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) is also trying to create problems for Missouri Sheriffs and Counties by attempting to jam up parole violators in our county jails. Recently when we arrested anyone on a parole warrant we could take them back to prison during business hours. This minimized the costs of incarceration including medical and high risk costs for the counties.

Now the DOC Director sent information to sheriffs telling us that we will hold someone on a parole warrant up to 5 business days so the parole officer can give that person a hearing at the county jail! Of course DOC does not want to pay counties for holding these people or any associated costs related to the arrest, medical and county incarceration. According to Daviess Dekalb County Regional Jail administration the State of Missouri has not paid them in several years for holding anyone on parole warrants.

My opinion this seems to be only retaliation from the DOC Director against the sheriffs because we did not jump on board the Directors sales pitch at sheriffs’ conference to eliminate the minimal prisoner per diem the state actually does pay counties. The Director had what I considered a contentious meeting with the sheriffs as she explained she wanted eliminate any reimbursement and to take only some of that money and put into a grant system sheriffs could apply for to possibly get some help with their jail expenses.   Meaning the state would continue and increase the burden of holding state prisoners for state law violations on the county tax payer’s responsibility.

The DOC Director told the sheriffs at spring conference they spend $60.01 per detainee per day to hold. Yet they only want to pay a small fraction of that to counties (about $20 per day) for ONLY those detainees who are sent to prison to serve a sentence. The state pays nothing for those detainees who only do county jail time or placed on probation.

I have sent letters to Rep. Rusty Black, our Senator, the DOC Director, and Governor Parson about this issue. Many other Missouri Sheriffs are upset with what the Department of Corrections Director is attempting to shove down our throats. We appreciate the many hard working men and women with the Department of Corrections but I for one completely disagree with their Directors intention and action pertaining to parole violators as there are other solutions which does not impact the county tax payers and burden sheriff’s budgets.

Another thing the DOC Director has changed is the manner which people on parole from prison can be violated. For example if the state has a child molester on parole and he violates another person the state will most likely NOT violate that persons parole until he has been convicted on the new case. Previously people on parole were given new laws violation and rolled back to prison while their significant case was going. Now our county budgets deal with the full costs ALL while the parolee earns credit to get off parole.

These issues are only about DOC Director saving her own budget money and forcing their expenses to the counties. There is nothing in the DOC Directors plans which in my opinion are anything about working together or allowing the sheriffs to have any input on these issues.

I believe we have to stand up to the unfunded mandates the DOC Director is trying to place on the counties. The long term could easily mean the loss of deputy positions just to fund jail operations. For the smaller counties like us every dollar makes a difference.

Thank you for reading this editorial and for your past, present and future support of the men and women at the LCSO. Be safe.

Steve Cox

 
 
 
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