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Missouri owes counties millions for housing state prisoners

May 26, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Department of Corrections owes counties tens of millions of dollars for housing inmates before they’re transferred to state prisons.

The state is about nine months behind with reimbursements, Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann told KCUR radio.

Data provided by the department shows massive outstanding balances. As of 2018, the state owed the City of St. Louis more than $2,500,000 and almost $1,900,000 to Jackson County.

“Every one of us taxpayers is hit with the burden of this, to hold prisoners for the state,” the Jackson County legislature’s vice chairman Dan Tarwater said.

“It’s an unfunded mandate,” he said.

The agency provides reimbursement of $22.58 per inmate per day, although state law specifies a rate of $37. Some county officials say that is not nearly enough.

Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber said it costs about $65 a day to house a prisoner.

“There’s two thirds of that cost that we’re eating,” Weber said.

Department Director Anne Precythe told a House Budget Committee in January that it needs to be allocated more money to cover these costs.

“The department receives a $10 million appropriation every quarter and we’re writing $10 million worth of checks in one business day,” Precythe said. “So we’re sitting on go, ready to write it, and when that’s done, we have another 89 days before we get another $10 million.”

It is down to Gov. Mike Parson to decide whether to allocate more money to address the backlog in payments.

Weber, of Cass County, is not optimistic.

“I don’t know what that is, but at the current rate we’re operating, the state will never get ahead,” he said. “We’ll never get these costs caught up and we’re going to keep plunging down that road. And I don’t know what will happen in the future.”

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Information from: KCUR-FM, http://www.kcur.org

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