Municipal Prisoner Ban Chronology

Sheriff Jim Arnott’s Decision to Close the Jail to Municipal Prisoners

City officials have been struggling for months with jail capacity issues and have worked with the Greene County Sheriff and the Greene County Commission over the years to ensure space is available in the jail for municipal prisoners, per a 1997 intergovernmental agreement regarding the disposition of tax dollars from a Law Enforcement Sales Tax (LEST I).

April 1, 2015

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams received a letter from Sheriff Jim Arnott April 1 notifying the City that the Greene County Justice Center will no longer accept municipal prisoners, as of April 3 at 5 p.m.

April 2, 2015

Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens responded in a letter to the Sheriff and the Greene County Commission, asking them to a) continue to accept municipal prisoners and b) work collaboratively with the City to develop a solution to this long-standing problem. The letter also indicates that the City will continue to work with the County to explore and evaluate various solutions.

April 3, 2015

Sheriff Arnott responded in a letter that he anticipates continuing to work on (b), but will not agree to (a) effective 7 p.m.

Mayor Bob Stephens invited Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin to lunch to discuss guaranteed beds. No agreement was reached.

May 12, 2015

Mayor Bob Stephens sent a letter on behalf of City Council to Sheriff Arnott and the Greene County Commission requesting a response by 5 pm May 15, offering two options:

Option A:

  • Guarantee 10 beds in the Greene County Jail for Springfield municipal prisoners effective immediately and continuing through the construction phase.

  • Once the remodeling is complete, guarantee at least 25 beds in the Greene County Jail for Springfield Municipal prisoners on an ongoing basis.
  • The City and County work together to file a motion in Circuit Court to seek clarification on the 1997 agreement.

Option B:

  • The City will seek an injunction from the Court to enforce the 1997 agreement and require the Sheriff to accept all municipal prisoners. The letter also noted that these options do not preclude the City and County from working together on a separate, long-term solution.

May 15, 2015

Lawyers Keck & Austin respond to the Mayor acknowledging receipt of the May 12 letter and requesting an extension due to an unforeseen health issue. City Council agrees to wait until the Sheriff can respond "as soon as possible" as indicated in the letter.

May 15, 2015

The Mayor responds to Lawyers Keck and Austin agreeing to the extension.

May 20, 2015

The Sheriff responds to the Mayor requesting a meeting to discuss "reasonable options to the issue."

May 22, 2015

City and County officials meet to discuss the situation, but talks did not lead to any guarantee of beds for municipal prisoners. City officials continue to stress that the citizens of Springfield need and expect both a short-term and long-term solution.

June 3, 2015

Mayor Stephens again sends a letter to the Sheriff and Greene County Commission, illustrating the ongoing and serious impact of not having a jail facility available to Springfield, the third largest city in the state of Missouri. The letter provides a specific example of how closing the consolidated justice center (City-County jail) to municipal inmates can be dangerous to the citizens of Springfield. "It leaves the City of Springfield without the tools needed to enforce municipal laws."

The letter reiterates the options presented in the May 12 letter and requests a new deadline; June 10, for a response indicating a short-term solution. In the absence of a written response, City Council plans to "proceed with Option B" which is to seek an injunction from the Court to enforce the 1997 agreement and require the Sheriff to accept all municipal prisoners.

June 9, 2015

The County Commission and Sheriff send two separate letters to the Mayor. The County Commission references the fact that the Commission does not have the authority to control how the jail is operated by the Sheriff, including the number of prisoners housed therein. The letter also indicates the Commission’s “understanding” that state statute 479.180 RsMO gives discretion to refuse municipal prisoners, but cannot decline state or federal inmates.

City Attorney Dan Wichmer and Police Chief Paul Williams disagree, saying there is discretion with regard to the housing of both state and federal inmates.

The June 9 letter from the Sheriff indicates that the City has not yet presented an option that he can agree to at this juncture.

June 16, 2015

Recognizing the efforts of Greene County to expedite renovation construction and a willingness to absorb additional costs to do so, Springfield City Council decides to defer action until the jail renovations are complete July 2. In a letter to the County Commission and Sheriff from the Mayor, it is spelled out, again, that the City requests a guarantee of space for municipal inmates. Without such guarantee, the Council plans to “seek clarification” of the 1997 LEST agreement that the County signed and state statute codified. The letter also reiterates a commitment to work together on a long-term solution, however, not in lieu of a short-term solution.

July 2, 2015

County Administrator confirms that jail renovation is complete. The Sheriff sends a letter to Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams and the other heads of municipal police forces in Greene County, scheduling a closed meeting on July 8, 2015 "regarding the plan to move forward to keep criminals off the street, provide adequate space to house inmates and give the courts enough time to move people through the system to adjudication."

July 3, 2015

Police Chief Paul Williams contacts the Sheriff and asks if he will accept municipal prisoners now that the jail renovation is complete. The Sheriff responds that there is no change to the policy, pending a July 8 meeting of Greene County law enforcement officials.

July 8, 2015

The Sheriff hosts a meeting with municipal police chiefs in Greene County, including Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, indicating he will end the practice of book and release for burglary offenses and reiterating he will provide space for municipal prisoners on an "as available basis."

On this same date, Sheriff Arnott issues a news release that announces the "jail is open to municipal prisoners." In the ensuing hours from 3 p.m. to 7 a.m., SPD arrested 22 people, including 7 who had a total of 10 municipal warrants. One of those was arrested on felony charges, along with his municipal warrants, but the other 6 had no other charges and were ROR (released) after the sheriff declared the jail full at 8 p.m. and it was closed again to municipal prisoners.

July 10, 2015

In the last 24 hours, the City-County jail was open to municipal prisoners from about 4-6 p.m. and 3-6 a.m. Five offenders were booked on Springfield municipal charges only during that time frame. Since 9 p.m., July 10, the jail has remained closed to municipal prisoners.

July 14, 2015
The City of Springfield files a petition in Greene County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment on Sheriff Arnott’s contractual requirement to accept municipal prisoners. Other counts include seeking injunctive relief, and a specific performance order for the Sheriff to accept municipal prisoners. 

Aug. 14, 2015
Sheriff Arnott responds to the City's petition with a counterclaim against the City of Springfield.

March 21, 2016
Springfield City Council votes to allocate up to $500,000 to house inmates in Miller and Taney County detention facilities, as a temporary solution to a long-standing disagreement with the Greene County Sheriff over the housing of municipal prisoners.

May 24, 2016
The Greene County Commission proposes to City Council to lease a temporary inmate housing facility for $1 million per year. 

June 24, 2016

City Council sends a letter to the Greene County Commissioners declining the proposal.