The Greene County Sheriff Department in Missouri has set up semi-trailers as a cost-effective temporary solution to overcrowding in jail, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
The sheriff says this is a temporary solution while they work toward a permanent fix by renovating the existing building and constructing an expansion jail across the street from where the portable trailers currently sit.
Concerns have surfaced that this may be inhumane and in violation of constitutional rights.
“I suggest to the sheriff that they find another way before they are sued, because they’re going to be sued,” said Sharon Dolovich, director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Prison Law & Policy Program.
County Sheriff Jim Arnott said the trailer park jail isn’t an ideal setup. He’d prefer to have more space in a permanent facility and more officers to watch prisoners, but he denies any allegations that the conditions are inhumane.
“Inhumane is a ridiculous word to use,” he told the News-Leader. “I wouldn’t put my staff in an inhumane area to work. The jail is very clean and well-maintained, and as far as space issues go, it is what it is,” Arnott said.
Surrounded by a chain- link fence topped with razor wire, six 52-foot semi-trailers are designed to detain 108 men. They eat, sleep and live in these trailer park jails from as little as one week up to multiple months while awaiting trial.
Overcrowding in jails is a national crisis, according to the article. Many other sheriffs and county officials throughout the U.S, are ex- pressing interest in Arnott’s trailer solution.
The men aren’t being housed in the main county jail because it is already operating at over capacity with 828 living in a facility de- signed for 601 inmates, ac- cording to Cpl. James Craigmyle.
Each inmate in the trailer park jail has less than 22 square feet of “drawn back space.” The American Correctional Association that sets the standard for safety and security states the cells and rooms used for holding inmates should provide at least 25 square feet of drawn back space, or space that is not blocked by any furnishing or fixtures.
“They do not meet the ACA standards due to the amount of inmates we need to house with the space provided,” Arnott said. “We do what we can.”
According to Arnott, jails are not required to meet ACA standards. He came up with the idea to use shipping containers to warehouse people, and All Detainment Solutions, a Missouri-based company, entered into a contract to build a structure for Greene County.
“I would say the trailers are better than our other units,” Sheriff Arnott told the News-Leader.
“It’s a health hazard,” said Patrick John Fields, a detainee who has been in the trailer jail since December, 2017.
“You could see there was standing urine and fecal matter.” he said. “We had to walk through that in our shower shoes.”
While the pretrial detainees are allowed to move around freely inside of the trailers versus being confined to a cell, Fields said a lot of people have flipped out.
There were issues with the plumbing and rain water entering the trailers through air vents.
“They deserve sanitary conditions,” Patrick’s mother Rachel Fields told the News- Leader.
After reviewing pictures of the trailer park jail, UC’s Dolovich said her reaction was “horror.”
“To anyone who suggest that these conditions are acceptable for those people who have found themselves in jail, I would ask them to consider if it’s their loved ones…would they think it’s OK?” Dolovich asked.
Alan Mills, director of Chicago’s Uptown People’s Law Center shares Dolovich’s concerns.
“It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of these people are innocent.” Mill told the News-Leader “They’re not convicted of anything.”