- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Nearly 3,000 crimes have gone “essentially unpunished” in the six months since Greene County’s sheriff said he would no longer accept Springfield municipal prisoners at the county jail, according to a city report to Springfield City Council members.

Springfield city officials call the document, presented to council members a week ago, an unvarnished view of criminal justice in the city since Sheriff Jim Arnott’s announcement, the Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/1RUtdG3 ) reported.

One Greene County leader, however, calls the report propaganda, while another calls at least one part “a lie.”

“The quality of life in our neighborhoods is what’s being affected,” Police Chief Paul Williams says in the report. “This really has a compounding effect. It will continue to get worse. The bottom line is that people can commit crimes such as stealing, driving drunk and beating people up with virtually no consequences.”

Local police agencies “came face-to-face with 2,812 people wanted on 2,763 warrants” between April 3 and Oct. 21 and were forced to release them, the report says.

Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson called the report a propaganda piece to create a public record to talk about a lawsuit that the city filed July 14 against Arnott.

Arnott said the report paints a picture of criminals running rampant in Springfield because of his policy.

“They would have been released anyway,” he said, adding that serious offenders in Springfield are still put in jail.

Arnott pulled out the daily “Jail Impact Report,” which shows which law enforcement departments bring in inmates. Of the roughly 700 people in the sheriff’s custody, 391 were Springfield prisoners.

The city report has a sub-heading, “The impact of being the largest city in the country without a jail,” which Arnott called, “totally misleading to the point that it’s a lie.”

“Well, if it (the city) doesn’t have a jail,” he said, “take your 391 inmates and put them somewhere else.”

City and county leaders agree there aren’t enough judges, prosecutors, public defenders or police officers to handle the amount of crime, as illustrated by the crowded jail. Beyond that, the two sides are far enough apart that it will take a judge to sort things out.

The city’s report said lack of jail cells or even the threat of incarceration undermines judges’ ability to enforce local laws.

Municipal Judge Todd Thornhill said judges used to be able to set bail to ensure a defendant would show up or risk returning to jail, but that’s no longer an option. He noted that Municipal Judge Becky Borthwick’s docket one day in August included 84 people, but only eight appeared.

“They don’t show up,” Thornhill said. “Who would?”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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