Lawmakers meet with sheriffs, Missouri Dept. of Corrections to discuss county jail reimbursement debt

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Since Fiscal Year 2017, the State of Missouri has seen its the amount of unpaid county jail reimbursements jump more than $8,500 dollars.

It now owes more than $32 million in unpaid reimbursements to counties that hold inmates charged with state crimes.

"We owe them a lot of money. Wow," Rep. Bryan Spencer, a Wentzville Republican.

In fact, the amount of money the state owes to Greene County for unpaid jail reimbursement is more than the $1.7 million the state budgeted to pay off that $32 million debt.

"I'm one of the counties that is owed $2.9 million in arrears, which is a pretty rough issue for us when we're looking at our budget," said Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott.

With a significant number of counties being owed money, sheriffs offices are looking at ways to cut costs.

"Some sheriffs are talking about having to lay off deputies. Myself included," added Lewis County Sheriff, David Parrish.

That's why sheriffs and the Department of Corrections met with lawmakers Tuesday. They discussed how that debt can be paid or relieved.

"Things like electronic monitoring can help," said Trevor Foley, Budget Director with the Missouri Department of Corrections. "It'll depend on how they're implemented."

The state is in the process of using an electronic monitoring program. The idea would be to have counties opt into the system to get some of those inmates the state has to pay for out of the county jail.

Arnott isn't convinced it'll help.

"We have roughly 70 out on ankle bracelets, but guess what? My jail population is at an all time high," Arnott told lawmakers.

Arnott said most of his inmate population is violent offenders, people he doesn't feel comfortable putting on an ankle bracelet.

"We very clearly understand this wouldn't be the only solution, but perhaps it would alleviate the problem in its entirety, and provide some savings to the state," said Republican Rep. Cody Smith, House Budget Committee Chair.

The DOC says this issue is far from being resolved, but is glad it's on the minds of lawmakers to fix.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.