Proposal For New Webster County Jail

By Linda Ong |

Published 07/11 2014 09:16PM

Updated 07/12 2014 10:32PM

Marshfield, Mo. -- Overcrowding is a problem for housing inmates at the Webster County jail.

"We have 32 beds, and we average about 45 people a day," said Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole.

There have been a few upgrades to the facility here and there, but much of how the jail looks and functions today is similar to how it was back when it was built in 1941.

Cole said the limited space creates an added challenge.

"People say well we don't care if they sleep on the ground," he said. "Well we don't care if they sleep on the ground either. But we run out floor space, there's no where to put them."

A sales tax proposal for a new jail on the upcoming Webster County August ballot may change this. The ballot will be two parts- one, a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the jail's construction, and two, a use tax.

Cole said the current layout of the jail is dangerous for staff and civilians who must cross paths often with inmates.

"You may have 60 inmates and have two jailers on duty," he said. "So the jailers can barely protect themselves and definitely not the inmates, and any civilians that would come in would be in danger as well because there's simply no space to move around."

Many of the citizens who come to file police reports must walk through many of the same doors and sit on the same benches as inmates as they wait to be processed.

Overcrowding also affects the county's bottom line.

"We can't house them all," said Cole. "In that case, we would pay to send them somewhere else."

Cole said the county has had to pay up to $100,000 annually to house inmates elsewhere. He said the limited space extends to jails outside of the county, letting some inmates off the hook with probation.

"If you're the citizen, you're saying well I'm the victim of a crime, and theyr'e not being put in jail, so obviously justice isn't being done when your primary source of punishment in America is a jail," he said. "Everytime somebody is not in jail, that's justice not being done for a victim."

Cole said there have been multiple efforts in the past 40 years to pass similar proposals, but those efforts have failed.

If the public votes in favor of the new jail, it will take about two years for construction. The jail is projected to be a 125 to 156 bed facility.

The proposal's estimated cost to county residents is about $18 to $25 a year.

Cole said he will seek community input on the jail's design.

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