Arnott, County Commission Sued Over Jail Dispute

Jul 14, 2015

From left; Greene County County Commissioners Harold Bengsch and Roseann Bentley, Sheriff Jim Arnott, and Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin.
Credit City of Springfield CityView

The city of Springfield has filed a lawsuit seeking compliance from Greene County to accept municipal inmates at the county jail.

After announcing Friday that it will consider a suit, the city on Tuesday confirmed it has filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgement in the dispute. At issue is a 1997 intergovernmental agreement between both the city and county over the housing of municipal inmates.

According to the lawsuit, on July 16, 1997, “The parties agreed that the jail would accept and house, with limited exceptions, all Springfield Municipal prisoners and that the funding for housing the Springfield Municipal prisoners would consist solely of the proceeds collected from the tax approved by Greene County voters on November 4, 1997.”

The agreement came into question on April 3 after Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott initiated a policy not to take municipal prisoners at the jail due to overcrowding issues. That policy was lifted on July 8 after renovations to the jail opened more space for inmates, but as capacity issues persist the acceptance of municipal prisoners has been limited.

“The Sheriff does not have authority to unilaterally modify the Agreement entered into by the Plaintiff, Sheriff and Commissioners,” the lawsuit says.

The suit also claims that the sheriff has been choosing to house federal prisoners over municipal ones.

The city said on Friday that between April 3 and July 8, Springfield police officers have arrested 1003 people, on 1251 municipal warrants. Per a judge’s order, all those arrested were released on their own recognizance (ROR) with a court date, rather than taking them to jail.

The city has posted a chronology of its accounts and documents concerning the jail issue here.