Jackson County officials continue to wrestle with jail issues as they await a consultant’s report due in two weeks.
Legislators met Thursday afternoon to hear from various officials and discuss, as Legislator Theresa Galvin put it, “what we’re supposed to do about the overcrowding at the jail.”
Crowding and safety issues at the jail have been in the public spotlight for more than two years as the FBI has conducted an investigation that began with looking at abuse of an inmate by four former guards. Legislators approved a $437,500 settlement in that case last month, and earlier this year they settled another case, for $275,000, involving a sexual assault at the jail in 2016.
County officials have in hand at least one consultant’s report that has not been made public, and another by consultant HOK is due Aug. 18. It could help map out next steps.
“To me, we’ve waited long enough. There needs to be a sense of urgency,” said Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit.
Also Thursday, County Executive Frank White Jr. reiterated that improving the jail remains his top priority and said the county has followed up on recommendations on staffing and other issues raised by a county task in 2015.
“This problem did not happen overnight and it will not be fixed overnight,” he said in a statement.
Although the county has raised pay to try to reduce corrections officer turnover, Galvin said it remains an issue. The job starts at $12.60 an hour, but the county often loses guards to better paying and safer jobs elsewhere, she said.
She also mentioned another long-standing complaint by county officials. It costs the county about $93 a day to house each prisoner. Those held in the jail are there on state charges, but the state reimburses the county only about $20 a day – and only once there’s a conviction. If a judge sentences an inmate to time served, a common practice, the state pays nothing.
That leaves local taxpayers covering the gap.
“So I mean, do the math,” Galvin said. “It doesn’t make sense.”