The inmates who escaped from the Ottawa County jail had been in state prison. But, they were moved to county jails because of a lack of space for male inmates.
The state started transferring some male inmates to county jails nine months ago. The Department of Corrections is contracting with five counties. It has farmed out 87 prisoners so far. These are the first to escape.
Corrections officials say inmates are moved based on their security risk rather than the severity of their crime.
"We look at a variety of issues when we are placing somebody," KDOC spokesperson Jeremy Barclay says. "The crime is what the public normally looks at, but there's a lot more to it than the crime."
State lawmakers are considering legislation to build more prison space.