Officials work to resolve overcrowding issue at Metro-East jail

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by Lauren Trager / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 10:47 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 9 at 7:55 AM

 (KMOV) – A solution is in the works but not before several inmates are allowed to walk free due to overcrowding at a Metro-East jail.

On any given day, the St. Clair County Jail is overcrowded by about 100 inmates. The property owners pay about $9 million, a year in operating costs for the 43-year-old jail.

In an attempt to solve the overcrowding, a plan to renovate will cost tens of millions of dollars.

 “Taxpayers always have to bear the burden, that’s the sad part but it’s the reality,” Sheriff Rick Watson of the St. Clair County Police Department said.

When the jail is over capacity, inmates are crammed into cells, with some sleeping on the floor.

“We have a lot of very violent people, sex offenders. People who belong behind bars,” Watson said.

State’s Attorney Brendon Kelly said more aggressive policing and prosecution has doubled the number of felonies charged in the past three years.

Kelly believes overcrowding is often considered by judges.

“We don’t want to get ourselves in a situation where people who are a danger are being released because we don’t have the capacity in the jail.” Kelly added.  

On Monday, the county hired an architect to make a plan for expansion and determine a final price tag.

Sheriff Watson said the jail has been leaking funds with band-aid repairs and renovations and with inmates successfully suing over their conditions.

He said he’s considering a sales tax increase to foot the bill but it’s all up in the air. He hopes to present a final plan in November. 

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