PLATTE CITY, Mo. — The fastest growing county in Missouri is taking the next step in its nearly decade-long effort to expand or upgrade its jail facilities.
The Platte County Commissioners voted 3-0 Monday to pay a jail consultant no more than $970 to update the jail study he did in 2018. That study projected the jail would need 237 beds in a building only built to hold 180 prisoners.
Officials tell FOX4 the jail routinely has many more prisoners than that, sometimes requiring Platte County to pay $50-60 a day to other counties to house people who can’t fit into the Platte County jail.
An updated study, expected in a couple weeks, would give commissioners a better idea for the challenges they need to address.
“Platte County is the fastest-growing county in the state,” said Platte County Commissioner Joe Vanover. “It would be nice if we didn’t have increases in crime to match our increases in population but wishing the problem will go away, I’m afraid, is not going to be good enough.”
That’s why he says there are a few options on the table: joining with other counties or cities in a regional jail project, or leasing beds from counties building their own new facilities, expanding house arrest capabilities to keep low-level offenders out of the jail in the first place, and jail pods, which would involve secured trailers set up outside the jail.
Already, Vanover says the county has increased the budget for paying other counties to house Platte County inmates to $300,000, a more than $100,000 increase, because of the growing need.
“It’s scary to think about what would happen if the neighboring counties did run out of space and we couldn’t take prisoners somewhere,” Vanover said.
That’s not a hypothetical problem.
Platte County used to send prisoners to both Clay and Buchannon Counties when the Platte County jail was over capacity. At the Commissioners meeting Monday, it was revealed that Clay County isn’t taking prisoners because they are also full.
The prison population is slightly lower than normal, Vanover says, because crime trends are somewhat seasonal. As the warmer weather moves in, he expects the population to increase, pushing the current facilities to and over their capacity.
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“We were in a very bad situation last spring when the jail was dangerously overcrowded,” Vanover said. “Thankfully, some of the neighboring counties were able to take some of our inmates to release some that that pressure.”
The updated study is expected in the next couple of weeks. Officials tell FOX4 they think the answer is more jail space but exactly how to get that space is up to the Commissioners.