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Greene County Holds Public Hearings On Proposed Bigger Jail

Lindie Keaton speaks at a podium in front of the Greene County Board of Commissioners in the Greene County town hall room. She is a member of the Greene County Coalition for Compassionate Justice, and argued that the county should spend their money on diversionary programs instead of building a bigger jail.
Mawa Iqbal
Lindie Keaton argues for more diversionary and mental health programs for Greene County Jail inmates at a public hearing on July 22. Keaton is a member of the Greene County Coalition for Compassionate Justice.

The Greene County Board of Commissioners has been holding public hearings to discuss plans to build a new, bigger jail.

Members of the Sheriff’s department sat in the front row of the hearing room on July 22, and several got up to speak in favor of the new jail. Major Kirk Keller was the first to speak at the podium.

“Do a good thing now and build a facility that is safe, that allows us to do the programming to help manage the inmates, to reduce recidivism as much as we can and do the right thing this time,” Keller said.

The county and the sheriff's department say that the current jail is out of date, and they need a more modern facility for inmates with special needs. The proposed facility will be funded by a 0.25 percent tax increase.

The jail expansion has already been voted down once. Opponents, such as community group Greene County Coalition for Compassionate Justice, say the county should focus on reducing the number of inmates instead.

Lindie Keaton is a member of the GCCC and was at the meeting. She says she would rather see her tax dollars go towards things like mental health and diversionary programs.

“We know that substance use disorders can't be treated successfully in twenty five days,” Keaton said. “So another question I have is what are we doing in our county so that we aren't spending money locking people up for substance use disorders? Because that's a terrible waste.”

The board of commissioners held another public hearing on July 29 at 1:30 p.m. At the meeting they voted to put the sales tax increase in front of voters this fall.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.