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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sheriff, Commission close Lawrence County jail

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A perpetual headache for the Lawrence County Commission, the 1987 county jail in Mt. Vernon, seen above at center, has now been ordered closed. Prisoners were being relocated today to other facilities. The new Judicial Center is seen in the background. The street between the jail and the Judicial Center has been closed and fenced off, leaving space for parking patrol cars, but that has not improved security. Most of the problems are inside the building, according to Sheriff Brad DeLay. According to reports, there is an independent investigation looking into conditions at the jail. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Sheriff Brad DeLay announced today that the Lawrence County Jail will be shut down temporarily.

"Because of use and wear in the jail, along with damage created by inmates, the jail is unsafe for the jailers and the civilian dispatchers who work out of the jail," DeLay said. "It (the situation at the jail) is also unsafe for the citizens of Lawrence County."

DeLay stated that the safety of the jail is of major concern and after speaking with the Lawrence County Commission, it was agreed the best course of action would be to close the jail until safety concerns could be remedied.

According to DeLay, two recent escapes of inmates from the facility are at the top of the reasons for the closing of the jail. The first escape was on July 16 when a prisoner escaped from custody from the booking area of the jail. This inmate was apprehended a few hundred yards from the jail. The second escape occurred on July 25. The inmate involved was captured a few hours later in Aurora.

The current jail originally cost $385,048 and was put into service in 1987.

"It may have been adequate at the time," DeLay said.

Since that time, the jail has been modified several times to accommodate a larger inmate population, something the jail was not equipped to do, DeLay said.

Some of the safety problems include:

* Prisoners are free to move as they wish from many cells because the locks do not work properly. One cell was closed down several months ago because the lock had jammed.

* Electrical wiring has been accessed and removed by inmates, leaving no lighting in the cell area. After dark, jailers have to check on inmates with flashlights not knowing if the inmates are in their cells.

* Inmates have damaged or destroyed cameras in the cell areas.

Prisoners held at the Lawrence County Jail are being transferred to unspecified locations throughout Missouri for holding until the jail can be reopened, DeLay said. Some inmates are being taken as far as the Kansas City, Missouri area.

Sheriff DeLay is working with county commissioners to appropriate money to fix the jail problems.

Monett offers limited help to sheriff


The Monett Police Department has offered to help the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department with assistance in jailing prisoners while the Lawrence County Jail is closed, but only in a limited capacity.

"We will make efforts to help them," Monett Police Lieutenant Greg Brandsma said. "Sheriff [Brad] DeLay said their requests of us will not be great in nature."

Brandsma said the jail in the Monett Justice Center, though big enough to hold 18 prisoners, is set up as a municipal jail. The purpose is to temporarily hold prisoners brought in on ordinance violations and warrants until they can be moved to other facilities.

"This isn't a long-term facility," Brandsma said.

"It's not only a staffing issue. There are uncertainties as to the numbers that will be housed. We can go from zero to six or seven, depending on the unknowns we have to deal with," Brandsma said.

The Monett jail has never had its jail cells filled to maximum capacity. Brandsma said Municipal Judge Mike Garrett has made efforts to find ways to limit extended incarceration.

Monett's resources will be open to Sheriff DeLay, Brandsma said, while the county works through difficulties arising from not having its own jail available.

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