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Boone County Jail hits highest levels of population, costs in 2016

A new study from a retired Boone County judge shows the rising inmate population and housing costs for the county’s jail.

Retired judge Gary Oxenhandler presented his report to the Boone County Commission Tuesday morning. A copy obtained by ABC 17 News shows the financial information and number of inmates the jail held throughout the last decade. The report also contains 21 “points of study” for the commission.

ABC 17 News has covered issues facing the jail, such as staffing shortages and rising costs to house inmates in other counties’ jails. Due to the lack of jail employees, Boone County closed one of the jail’s pods, and started paying other counties to incarcerate some of its inmates. In 2016, the county exceeded its budget for this method by thousands of dollars, spending more than $500,000 for a program budgeted $300,000.

Nearly 226 people a day were incarcerated by Boone County, according to Oxenhandler’s study, costing taxpayers $56 a day. The amount is the highest level in the last ten years, and includes an average of 44 inmates a day held in other county jails or in offsite facilities like Reality House or work release programs. Overall, people spent 82,477 days in custody of the Boone County Jail, higher than last year’s total of 74,432 days.

Oxenhandler noted myriad issues with simply building a larger jail to house its inmates. Hiring more professional staff continues to plague the county, and selecting a site, even if it was an expansion, would carry large costs. Sending inmates to other counties, like neighboring ones such as Cole and Callaway counties, can be more cost effective.

“Potholes don’t get fixed, sewer systems are in disrepair, bridges need repair, so thinking about building a jail with public money is a hard go right now,” Oxenhandler said.

Oxenhandler’s study gave the county commission 21 different points to consider, which includes bringing on a consultant to further crunch the numbers at the jail. He also recommended the Criminal Justice Administration Coordinating Committee bring on a budget expert to help make decisions on keeping population and costs low. The report also suggests judges consider house arrest for pre-trial release or for people awaiting sentences. Oxenhandler recommended jail staff consider moving from two bunks per cell to three bunks, as it has done with one of its pods.

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