Jail overcrowding is one of the most increasingly devastating dilemmas plaguing our justice system. One Missouri county, with the assistance of a company called All Detainment Solutions, claims to have a fantastic and cost-effective fix – storing their surplus of inmates in semi-trailers in a parking lot surrounded by a wire fence. It has been one year since Greene County adopted this unconventional practice. There are currently 108 men living in the 52-foot semi-trailers, meaning that every person has space that is less than half the capacity of a ping-pong table. Greene County Sheriff, Jim Arnott, has assessed that most of the men in the trailers have been charged with a crime and are pending trial, some of them could even be innocent. Many legal experts have deemed the confined spaces in these trailers as inhumane. David Shapiro, former staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, has deemed this temporary jail a “recipe for disaster.”
Until work is completed on their expanded jail, the situation is said to be temporary. However, the completion of the jail is still years away, with no specific date of completion. County officials have suggested that the temporary prison could be kept open even after the permanent facility has expanded. There is already a multimillion-dollar contract with Canyon County Idaho for All Detainment Solutions to build a similar jail, and most likely more to follow.
Though this temporary jail is a creative and cost-effective way to tackle the problem of overcrowding, it will not solve the problem. Overcrowding of our prisons is just an indication of a wider problem with our underfunded criminal justice system and lack of sufficient community services. Instead of investing in warehousing inmates, we should be investing in programs that allow low-risk offenders or those who can’t afford bail, to be released on community supervision, saving both space and money.