The Cass County Jail soon will be able to handle more inmates.
The 136-bed facility can hold up to 150 with specialized housing sections. In 2018, the daily average was 163. Public information officer Kevin Tieman says they were never below maximum capacity for the entire year, which puts a strain on their facility and trickles down to extra pressure for county cities.
“Part of the problem is that when you are full you have to turn away people. So, a lot of municipalities in the county have had to deal with taking their people elsewhere when our facility is full,” Tieman said.
The expansion is interior. Original construction of the jail 20 years ago left space for this kind of growth. While an architectural firm only recently got the go-ahead from county commission to put final plans in place, the goal is have enough finished cell-block space for 200 people.
This build-out comes on the heels of a 2018 courthouse project that finished the third floor of that building to add two more courtrooms. The State of Missouri also approved a new judge for the county, who started hearing cases on Jan. 1.
Both moves could help ease some of the jail crowding as well. One of the problems contributing to the higher number of inmates is that people aren’t getting out of jail as quickly as they used to. In 2005, the jail actually handled more incarcerations than it does today, but the length of stay for each inmate was only nine days. In 2018, the average length of stay was 24 days.
“The majority of our inmates are pre-trial detainees, not convicted (inmates). They couldn’t get to trial. They had to wait for backlog in the courts or the ability to get to the cases for posting bonds,” Tieman said.
Cass County Commissioner Jimmy Oden says the new courtrooms and judge will help get to cases sooner, but the build-out is still needed.
“Now, it’s starting to get where we can get these cases done sooner and be more efficient. With that comes the fact that if we need to put people in a jail, we need to have the room to do that,” Oden said.
The financing for this project is connected to a 10-year extension on a justice center tax. While there it not-yet a set timeline for the jail project, Tieman says they hope to have it completed before the end of 2019. The jail will be open and operational during the build-out.