A year after a southwestern Missouri county began using trailers to house inmates amid jail overcrowding, more than 100 men are being held in the trailers and officials in other areas of the country are eyeing the program.

But some legal experts argue that Greene County’s program has raised major red flags and caution that the crowded conditions could be considered inhumane, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

Greene County heralded the program as the first of its kind when it launched about a year ago. County officials said it was a temporary, cost-effective solution to the jail overcrowding that had plagued the county for more than a decade.

The operation currently includes six 52-foot semi-trailers in a parking lot that are surrounded by a chain-link fence. The trailers currently house 108 men, meaning each man has space that amounts to less than half the size of a ping-pong table. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott estimates the most of the men have been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial or another official declaration of innocence or guilt.

The creator of the trailer jail, All Detainment Solutions, has since secured a multimillion-dollar contract for a similar project in Idaho. And officials from other counties with jail overcrowding problems have come to Greene County to see the operation, according the newspaper.

Officials said Greene County’s program was adopted as the county worked toward permanently expanding its jail capacity, including renovating the existing jail building. But opening the jail expansion is still years away.

One legal expert calls it a “recipe for disaster.” Others cautioned that keeping people in those crowded conditions could amount to constitutional violations.

Arnott acknowledges the trailers aren’t ideal and that he wants more space in a permanent facility, but he scoffed at the suggestion that the facility amounted to inhumane treatment.

“Inhumane is a ridiculous word to use,” the sheriff said. “I wouldn’t put my staff in an inhumane area to work.”

Greene County, Missouri
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