Greene County Jail Sets Record for Inmate Population

Dec 3, 2013

As of Monday morning, Greene County says it had reached yet another daily record of 707 inmates in the county jail.

Tim Smith is the administrator for Greene County.

“It looks to us like our population is increasing and the number of people committing crimes is increasing,” Smith said.

The Greene County jail was completed in 2001 and was designed to hold up to 500 inmates. Since 2010, the jail has had a population at capacity and it’s been on the rise ever since.

Harold Bengsch, District 1 commissioner for Greene County, says the problem over overcrowding is not just in Greene County, but throughout the state and nation.

In order to maintain safety in the jail, the county must pay to house inmates in other county jails at an average cost of $40 per inmate per day. There are currently 77 inmates being housed outside of Greene County.

“Obviously, it’s taking its toll on the county. The one thing that’s in the county’s favor is the fact that the federal prisoner’s reimbursement that we’re keeping is greater than what it’s costing us to move prisoners out of county. So that reimbursement does help offset the cost of moving prisoners out of county. But, nevertheless, when you have as many prisoners as we’ve got which are 621 in the jail today that means there’s over 70 being housed outside of Greene County and that does begin to add up to dollars costing the county taxpayer,” Bengsch said. 

In April, voters passed the one-eighth cent sales tax for law enforcement, which was supposed to help alleviate jail overcrowding. The county attempted to minimize the issue further by proposing a use tax in November, but it was rejected by 56 percent of voters.

A change in the court system is another way officials are tackling this issue.  

“What’s happening here is the judge we just made the courtroom available to in taking on non-criminal cases relieving the other circuit and associate judges to handle more criminal cases,” Bengsch said.