Missouri counties are currently bearing the brunt of what it costs for housing and transporting state prisoners.
All counties in Missouri are required to ensure that its costs for detaining pre-trial offenders are paid for because the state's County Reimbursement Program has been underfunded for a number of years, said David Owen, communications specialist at Missouri Association of Counties.
Counties usually have to shift resources from other areas or reduce services to cover this cost, which impacts local residents who rely on services and local taxpayers.
Reimbursement claims are processed by the Missouri Department of Corrections on a first-come, first-served basis. For several years now, the submitted expenses total far more than what is in the Department of Corrections' coffers, Owens said.
Owen said the state currently owes counties more than $18 million for housing offenders who have been convicted on state charges.
“Last year, the governor [Mike Parson] recommended putting $22 million toward paying down the more than $30 million the state owed counties for housing offenders who were convicted of state offenses,” Owen said. “However, lawmakers decided to only budget $9.7 million of the governor’s request. While it may not have been what the governor requested, the state did take the right step toward paying back some money they owed counties for housing state prisoners.”
An audit determining that the best course of action would be for the Department of Corrections to officially request the full amount of what is owed to counties so Legislators would have a clearer understanding of the debt amount.
The Department of Corrections has not yet requested the full amount to remedy the outstanding balance.
The reimbursements paid to counties covers just under half of what the cost is to house a prisoner, leaving counties to subsidize the outstanding costs. Other issues counties have encountered because of a lack of funds include not having enough to cover jail costs, reducing other services and raising taxes.
“Counties have been a part of past justice reinvestment initiatives and we hope to continue to work with state leaders and lawmakers to ensure that counties are represented when it comes to discussing how the state and local governments can reduce the costs of incarceration on taxpayers,” Owen said.
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