On a typical day, about 181 federal inmates are housed in the Greene County Jail. Sixteen from Nov. 1, 2022 are pictured in their booking photos. (Photos from Greene County Jail, compilation by Rance Burger)

With its close location to a federal courthouse, the Greene County Jail is a logical site for the U.S. Marshals to detain people awaiting trial on federal crimes.

The Greene County Commission voted 2-0 on Nov. 1 to extend a contract agreement with the U.S. Marshals to house unsentenced federal inmates for the next three years. Rate adjustments for what the federal government will pay Greene County stand to boost Greene County Sheriff’s Office revenue by about $2 million per year from what it currently makes housing federal inmates in the jail.

Maj. Phil Corcoran explained a 20-percent jump in reimbursement for inmate housing, from $80 per day to $100 per day under the new contract. 

“That’s a pretty good increase,” Corcoran said.

Federal inmate boarding accounts for about $9 million in the 2022 budget, according to the Greene County Budget Office.

On an average day in 2022, there are 181 federal inmates in the Greene County Jail, so the reimbursement per day is about $18,100, an increase of about $3,620 per day. In mid-October, the jail had a total inmate population of 967 inmates, with federal inmates making up about 18 percent of the total population.

The Greene County Commission voted 2-0 to allow the sheriff’s office to extend the contract agreement, with Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon and First District Commissioner John C. Russell voting to approve the contract. 

“This is going to be a big revenue boost,” Russell said.

Second District Commissioner Rusty MacLachlan was attending SWMO Annual Water Conference at the time of the vote.

The reimbursement rate for guard duty also increased, from $28 to $32. Guard duty occurs when an unsentenced federal inmate being housed in the Greene County Jail needs to go offsite for medical care or hospitalization. A deputy or multiple deputies are assigned to guard the inmate and prevent their escape during hospital stays.

“Something new that they’re doing for us this go around is they’re paying for mileage — whatever the government standard rate is — for all movement and transportation of the inmates,” Corcoran said.

Both Corcoran and Maj. Royce Denny, two of the top-ranking deputies in the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, said it’s important to look at more recent population trends when trying to project revenue gains. There’s been significant ebb and flow of Greene County’s federal inmate population in recent years. In 2020, it reached as many as 300 inmates per day. 

“It was during COVID, when the federal prisons weren’t accepting inmates,” Denny said. 

The public health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic kept the Federal Bureau of Prisons from transferring many inmates across state lines into prisons. The inmates were instead held in local jails until such times as when federal prisons could take them into their populations.

“They were backlogging in the jail facility,” Denny said. “Since then, they’ve been moving prisoners out, and our count got down in the 140 range, and it slowly crept back up to about the 175, 180 range.”

Denny expects the federal inmate population to slowly gain from its present daily average of 181.

“It’ll hold where we’re at for sure, and I anticipate an increase in the future,” Denny said. “As time goes and progresses, we’ll see a slight increase.”

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger