Dec 6, 4:40 PM EST

Missouri trailer jail complete but empty amid staff shortage


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- A temporary jail in southwestern Missouri is ready to take in inmates, but it's empty due to a staffing shortage.

A series of semi-trailers have been outfitted with sleeping bunks and other features to house up to 108 inmates at Greene County. The facility was turned over to Sheriff Jim Arnott about two weeks ago, the Springfield News-Leader reported .

Arnott said he doesn't have enough staff to house inmates in the temporary jail. He said he's working to hire officers, but low wages make it difficult.

Arnott said the county didn't wait for him to have enough officers to staff the temporary jail because his staffing numbers change every week, making it difficult to determine how many new employees he's hired since the county began preparing the temporary jail.

"I can't predict how many people I'm going to lose or retain," he said. "It's hard to judge that."

Arnott requested a "pay restructure" in his office to help attract qualified candidates. The county is considering his request as it puts together the 2018 budget.

The trailer jail was built with the intention to save money. County officials said it will cost less to keep overflow inmates in the temporary jail than to pay for housing in other counties. Arnott estimated about 170 inmates, on average, are being housed in other counties each day.

Arnott doesn't know when the temporary jail will be operational.

Greene County voters passed a half-cent general revenue tax hike in November. Part of that money will go toward a permanent jail expansion to bring total capacity up to just more than 1,400 beds.

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

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