Saturday, March 12, 2016

City Had to Stop Arresting Actual Criminals Because They Filled Up Jail with Non-violent Offenders

prison-370112_960_720By Justin Gardner

Greene County, MO – The epidemic of mass incarceration is coming back to bite authorities in one American city. Because the Greene County jail is completely full, Springfield (pop. 165,000) is unable to arrest more than 12,000 people accused of crimes such as traffic infractions and misdemeanor assaults.

Missouri’s third-largest city has lost almost half a million dollars in less than a year from unpaid fines and fees. These lost extortion fees are likely the biggest concern to city officials.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said offenders are thumbing their noses at police.
“They’re tearing tickets up in front of people,” Williams said. “Officers are frustrated because they can’t arrest anyone, judges are frustrated that they can’t see people, prosecutors are frustrated. It has just kind of spun out of control.”
Springfield’s citizens are taking advantage of the problem. One judge said that 82 people were supposed to appear in court under a docket of cases, but only eight bothered to show up.
There has been no significant difference in crime rate beyond normal fluctuation, and the city acknowledges that it can’t tell if the lack of arrests has any effect.

The situation is causing quite the kerfuffle between Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott and city officials. Last April, Arnott said he would not take any more municipal prisoners, even though the city says there was an agreement that the jail, which opened in 2001, would take them.

However, Arnott is taking federal inmates despite the full capacity. The county gets paid $61 per day for each federal inmate, while the city does not pay anything to the county for housing inmates.
It seems that the nature of the American for-profit prison-industrial complex is at the heart of this dispute. The sheriff is fine with taking prisoners when he makes a profit, but turns them away if there is no money involved. It’s not really about right and wrong, but about feeding the profits of the jail system.