Jail Standards for Missouri

Should Missouri establish standards for local jails? That was the underlying question in a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The article focused on health and safety problems in the 145-year-old jail in Iron County known as the “dungeon”. The conditions are so dismal that many fear a lawsuit could force the county to make changes on a court-ordered timeline. Proposed tax increases to build a new jail in the economically depressed county have failed.


Unlike about 30 other states, Missouri does not have jail standards. The quality of Missouri’s jails varies widely and there is no real incentive for counties to make improvements. Missouri law does allow several counties to join to build regional jails, but counties often prefer to keep local control. Jails in Missouri are used to hold people awaiting bail, trial or transfer to prison. Individuals who have a sentence up to one year can be held in a local jail. In recent years local jails have been viewed as a way to relieve overcrowding in prisons. Click here to read the article.

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