TUSCUMBIA, Mo. — A southwest Missouri county has decided to quit housing municipal inmates from Springfield because too many of them were becoming stranded in the tiny town where its jail is located.
Miller County, which is more than 100 miles from Springfield, started housing some of that city’s inmates in late May. The three-member County Commission voted to end the deal three months later.
County Clerk Clinton Jenkins said the county was aware from the beginning that early termination was a possibility because of how difficult it is for freed inmates to get a ride out of town.
“We’re a small community and we have no cellphone reception,” Jenkins told The Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/2cf4PSZ ).
Virgil Cole, a 52-year-old homeless man who was arrested last month for failing to show up to court on a Springfield trespassing charge, knows that all too well.
Cole was taken to Tuscumbia, a town of about 200 that is home to the Miller County Jail, and held for 48 hours before being released because no judge was available to see him.
With nobody to give him a ride, Cole started walking back to Springfield — a journey that took five days.
“They kicked me out at 6:30 on a Sunday night,” he said. “There’s nothing there. There’s no bus terminal, there’s no McDonald’s. There’s a gas station that sells hot dogs.”
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said his department has neither the authority nor responsibility to give the inmates a ride once they’re out of the jail.
“If they’re arrested and they just show up in court, they would not have warrants out for their arrest,” he said. “They would not have to be taken to a jail, wherever that jail may be.”
Tuscumbia Mayor Davie Horton said he supports Miller County’s decision and believes what the Springfield police have been doing is wrong.
Many of the released inmates don’t have any money or phones, so they beg locals for food or a ride back to Springfield, he said.
Kaye Hamacher, who works at the Tuscumbia Eagle Stop — the only gas station in town — said she sees between five and 20 released inmates a week in the store and worries about their safety.
“I give them food and drink. I pay for that myself because I can understand — I used to work up here at the county jail,” she said. “I feel like they’re being mistreated, just being kicked out on the streets out here.”
Taney County, which also started housing Springfield inmates in late May, has not experienced the same problems as Miller County and will continue to accept the inmates, presiding county commissioner Mike Scofield said.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com