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Archive for Sunday, August 3, 2014

Douglas County considers jail expansion

August 3, 2014

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Douglas County officials are considering ways to expand the county jail.

"We are starting to see the numbers of inmates go up and their needs are changing, so we have started looking at what we need to do to improve our facility," Sheriff Ken McGovern said.

When the $22 million, 196-bed facility opened in September 1999, officials thought that by 2010, based on inmate projections, an expansion would be needed

But for several years, the inmate population lagged behind those projections.

The total number of bookings reached a high of 6,392 in 2006, then fell to 5,297 in 2012.

Now, however, the population is starting to increase again, especially within certain categories, which causes space management problems. For example, the building was originally designed to hold 24 female inmates at any one time.

Total bookings in the jail were up to 5,997 in 2013. Of those booked last year, 1,644 were female, compared with 1,366 in 2012.

This year, the county budgeted $100,000 to house excess Douglas County prisoners in other counties. Next year, the county has budgeted $250,000 due to the increasing inmate population and an increase in the daily incarceration charge from Johnson County.

No dollar figures for expansion have been mentioned, McGovern said. Right now, he said, officials want to work on what is needed and then figure out what it would cost.

Officials will discuss the jail expansion more at an Aug. 20 meeting of city, county and school district officials.

"We do intend to bring that up as something that the county will be doing in the next three years," said County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

Any expansion would have to take into account the number of inmates needing mental health treatment, McGovern said. Last year, 37 percent of the people booked into the jail self-reported having a mental health issue, according to jail records.

The reduced availability of mental health beds at state facilities means more needs at the local level, he said, and that requires adjustments.

"It's a strain on our staff because at times we are constantly watching and monitoring certain individuals, making sure they are medicated," he said.

Incarcerating people with mental health problems includes devoting lots of staff time to closely observe inmates including watches for inmates deemed suicidal, McGovern said.

"That issue is very difficult, space-wise and staff-wise," said Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory. "The lack of state facilities has been exacerbated that recently," he said.

Rick Cagan, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Kansas, said people with mental illness need treatment or their situation worsens. "If we ignore their mental health condition while they are in jail, then when they get out what are we left with? We'll have a tougher job because pope are in worse shape than when they got in," he said.

Comments

Bob Forer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Lousy planning back in 1999. If officials thought that they would need to expand in a mere 11 years, they should have built a bigger facility, and instead of paying to send inmates elsewhere, they could have contracted to place out-of-county inmates in the excess space.

It's always cheaper in the long run to build excess capacity now rather than expand later.

Seth Amott 4 months, 3 weeks ago

How is that lousy planning? That is the exact opposite, to have the projections like that and build something that can be phased in over time. Had the built it it to house 2010 levels, it would have been "Bad planning" because they spent money on all that unused space.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

are we housing prisoners from other counties to collect rent?

If so serve eviction notices so taxpayers aren't be held hostage to the business of for profit storing prisoners.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

First of all if the mentally ill do not need to be housed in jail.

That truly is a crime. I am 100% certain that building or retrofitting a facility for the mentally ill would be far less expensive then an expanded jail.

Secondly what are the "certain categories" that are causing the increase in inmates?

If it is for possession, than again, no need to add to the jail.

Maybe the focus should be on figuring out how to keep people from being jailed in the first place. Douglas County is a very small county and we have 196 cells that is a lot of people in jail...something does not seem right.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

First of all if the mentally ill do not need to be housed in jail.

That truly is a crime. I am 100% certain that building or retrofitting a facility for the mentally ill would be far less expensive then an expanded jail.

Secondly what are the "certain categories" that are causing the increase in inmates?

If it is for possession, than again, no need to add to the jail.

Maybe the focus should be on figuring out how to keep people from being jailed in the first place. Douglas County is a very small county and we have 196 cells that is a lot of people in jail...something does not seem right.

Leslie Swearingen 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Police are obligated to arrest people who break the law. As long as drug laws are on the books they will be enforced. Mentally ill people who break the law will be put in jail like everyone else. They are not being arrested because of their illness but because of their crime.

Leslie Swearingen 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Police are obligated to arrest people who break the law. As long as drug laws are on the books they will be enforced. Mentally ill people who break the law will be put in jail like everyone else. They are not being arrested because of their illness but because of their crime.

Leslie Swearingen 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Police are obligated to arrest people who break the law. As long as drug laws are on the books they will be enforced. Mentally ill people who break the law will be put in jail like everyone else. They are not being arrested because of their illness but because of their crime.

Leslie Swearingen

As I was waiting for my page to change I realized I had not put my name on so I did so that resulted in a double comment.

Clark Coan 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I was predicting this last week and posted it on Facebook. "Build them and judges will fill them" is the reality of new jails. Many of those in for nonviolent crimes could be doing community service or even work gangs. For example, a requirement that they have to pick up X miles of highway, trail or riverbank litter might work. There are probably lots of projects in Douglas County they could work on. I'm sure the rangers at Clinton Lake could use some help.

I also predicted last week that a new school and fire station will be built near the Rock Chalk Park to service all of the new housing units being built in that area. Plus, a gigantic water park for the Rock Chalk Park. Remember: You heard it here first.

Larry Sturm 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Brownback closing mental hospitals and or cutting their budgets is more of the problem. Law enforcement with the daily mental evaluation and medication. They are not a doctor trained for mental illness.

Greg DiVilbiss 4 months, 3 weeks ago

It has not just been Brownback closing hospitals. Mental Health facilities in Kansas have been shrinking since the 80's. To try to lay the blame on Brownback is forgetting history.

I do not fault police for doing their job. I fault a system that prioritizes jails over hospitals.

I fault a system that has mandatory jail time for minor drug offenses.

I do not do drugs and would never encourage anyone to do so either, however our laws governing personal choice are oppressive. If a person smoking pot is intoxicated while driving then I have zero sympathy, Arrest them.

Is it suspicious to you, how many people are jailed in this country? Is it that we have lost our moral compass compared to other superior industrialized nations and we just commit more crimes? Or could it be that the laws we have are the cause?

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