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Too many jail inmates are costing too much money, commissioners say
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Feb. 18, 2010) — Sentencing decisions and recommendations by local judges and prosecutors may be causing financial problems for Pulaski County, Commissioner Bill Farnham warned at Thursday’s county commission meeting.

After reviewing the county jail inmate list, Farnham said he’s not happy that judges have been sentencing inmates to serve their time in the county jail rather than in state prison. Counties receive funding from the state that partially compensates them for the expense of holding inmates before they’re convicted and sent to state prison, but that happens only if they plead guilty or are found guilty and if the judge sentences them to state prison time.

Farnham said there were numerous cases where felonies had been plea-bargained down to Class A misdemeanors for which the maximum penalty is one year in the county jail.

“If they get over a year sentence we get $23.50 per day for them, but if they’re sentenced to our jail, we get nothing,” said Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch.

Farnham said one of the county’s inmates was arrested on Dec. 31 of last year and has been sitting in jail on a parole violation case.

“On a parole violation, shouldn’t they send them over to the big house and then bring them back for their court date? But they’re sitting here in our jail,” Farnham said. “If they’re going to continue to put them in the county jail and if they’re healthy and willing to work, let’s let them work for the county to reduce their sentence.”

Without stating a name, Farnham said some of the people currently being held in the jail could be productive county workers.

“He’s a healthy young man, he’s strong as a bull and if we could, we’d use him on road and bridge. He’s not a flight risk,” Farnham said.

McCulloch said the jail currently has 48 inmates held either in Pulaski, Miller or Phelps county; of those 48, six people have been sitting in the county jail for more than two years. Only one of those six cases is a murder case; the others are assault charges of various types.

McCulloch said there’s no good reason why people should be spending more than two years in the county jail waiting for a trial date.

“I believe the Eighth Amendment says something about the right to a speedy trial,” McCulloch said.

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