Espresso & Opinions: Changes to Jail & Courthouse

Local News Today

Espresso & Opinions: Jasper County Proposition 1 


ERIN: “Hi everyone welcome to our very first Espresso & Opinions. It’s a new series we’re starting here on KSN Local News Today. And my first guest is Erik Theis, he’s the Jasper County Court Administrator. And Erik I just wanted to talk a little bit about Proposition 1.”

ERIK: “This was actually a 2 step process. In 2015 we asked the voters to increase the sales tax for the Juvenile Justice Center and exterior rennovations to the Carthage Courthouse. And those projects are on time and on budget. This time around, we have some major needs and those are with the Carthage Courthouse and a jail expansion project. So we’re asking the voters in April to extend the current sales tax that’s already in place so we can do some major infrastructure projects that are needed.”

ERIN:
“So it seems like the major issue in a lot of this is space. Quite simply space is interfering with your daily operations.”

ERIK: 
“In 1975 it was built, in 1975 we had 2100 cases that were filed with the court. Fast forward to last year, we had nearly 17,000. So that was a 700% increase over the last 40 years.”

ERIK: 
“The Sheriff’s Office, when they transport prisoners over to Joplin they have to be escorted through public hallways, and that’s obviously a flight risk, and a safety risk to the public.”

ERIN: “And you just have one room right now, right? For clients to meet with.”

ERIK: 
“Now that’s at the Jasper County Jail, and I can go ahead and talk about that. With only one room available, attorneys have to set appointments, obviously there’s not enough space for that. And so that delays the judicial process. The Jasper County Jail is extremely overcrowded and it has been for quite some time. The current capacity is 183. And we’ve been averaging about 230… the sheriff can not appropriately classify inmates. It causes a lot of potential fights and puts the law enforcement officers that are in the facility in jeopardy.”

ERIN: 
“You guys said mental illness and substance abuse is a problem. And one that because of these limitations is not being dealt with like you’d like it to. Tell us kind of about that.”

ERIK: 
“What we’re wanting to do, part of the expansion project is to provide treatment in the facilities. And also provide an area where behavioral mental health professionals can come in and do accurate assesments. That they have a plan in place so they don’t recycle in and out of the system.”

ERIN: 
“So say in April, this is voted and it’s passed, what does that mean for citizens as far as where the money is going to come from?”

ERIK: “It won’t be a sales tax increase. That’s the most important thing I want to emphasize. The sales tax generates about 4 million dollars per year. We are asking for a 15 year extension of the current sales tax that’s already in place. And I don’t want to forget about the Carthage Courthouse. What we’re wanting to do is refurnish some of the interior, add an additional courtroom so we can have jury trials over in Carthage.”

ERIN: 
“Not all of the revenue is coming directly from people that live in Jasper County.” 

ERIK: “Right yeah I’m glad you brought that up.” 
“Actually 2/3 of the revenue generated is from people coming in to the city and into the county and doing business, doing work and purchasing things. So this is a really fair tax to the citizens of Jasper County because most of the burden is not on the citizens. It’s actually on people that come and visit the county.”

ERIN: 
“So if this is to get passed, then I mean how quickly can people expect results or what’s kind of the time table there?”

ERIK:
“If the voters approve, we have an architect already on board. And so it’d take about 6-8 months to do the architectural planning. And then we’d have to put it out for bid. And so I’m looking at an approximate date of sometime in 2020.”

ERIN: “Ok, alright that’s it for our first Espresso & Opinions, thank you so much for joining me. Did you enjoy your coffee? It was great, cheers.”

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