Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: Jail research

April 13, 2018

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To the editor:

Voters will be facing a decision about jail expansion and behavioral health services in a referendum. I believe that justice matters. I believe in racial and economic equity. Do we really need a jail expansion to the cost of $44 million? A no vote seemed reasonable in light of the nationwide over-incarceration rate. I was ambivalent and so I signed up for a tour of the jail. Alternatives to incarceration are in place and are expanding. They include those on pretrial release, house arrest and behavioral health court. Recidivism rates have increased as some inmates are transferred to other jail sites and cannot, therefore, participate in this nationally recognized re-entry program on site in Lawrence. Several of the key issues pertaining to voting no are not within the decision-making boundaries of the jail leadership or county commissioners.

So, should we not be looking more at the underfunded court system, the Legislature that decides sentencing guidelines, the police who are being challenged with implicit bias? And how about the educational system? They are at the other end of the prison pipeline, and school suspensions are one of the steps toward early incarceration. Voting no will only hurt those who are currently in jail and will prevent the expansion of a much-needed behavioral health system, including a crisis stabilization center. Improving the lives of those currently incarcerated and creating a behavioral health care system in Lawrence are important steps to making justice matter. I vote yes.

Comments

Deborah Snyder 6 days, 13 hours ago

Of course! Just out of curiosity, would you a property owner, Ms. Watts? Would you be as supportive were this permanent-into-perpetuity tax hike was assessed against your home?

You accept that, despite the baby-brand-new social programs; despite the complete insufficient action over the last two decades of the county to adequately address the backlog of court cases (which will continue to be understaffed) and the fact that the county will not allow an independent audit of its court and jail system practices PRIOR to taking on a (come-hell-or-high-water) permanent regressive sales tax that YOU can (no doubt) drive somewhere else to avoid paying...while the working poor, or poverty struck, get. to. pay.

Right? And if you can console yourself that these poor people (mostly minorities, mostly unable to afford a personal lawyer) get "help," and you're not having to pay property tax for it, then YEE-ahh let's do it!

You do. not. shove. responsibility for a permanent community structure onto the backs of people buying bread and meat for themselves and/or their family. You do. not. enact. such a permanent tax WITH NO SUNSET, NO END. NO ACCOUNTABILITY.

I did NOT raise my children to be so selfish, so irresponsible. I will vote NO until the county puts these programs (and more!) into place LONG ENOUGH to accumulate the data needed to make such a draconian request.

Sharilyn Wells 6 days, 12 hours ago

While bert nash is out there winning national awards lots of people with substance abuse and mental illness have died here in the streets . frozen to death and. so forth and so on

Jennifer Harrison 6 days, 7 hours ago

I vote YES also...I could care less about hurting those in jail. They did wrong and should be punished. I am sick and tired of people blaming others instead of the criminals themselves. We have become a society that places blame everywhere else except the person responsible...and in this case, its the criminal!!!! Build it and fill it up!!

Kendall Simmons 4 days, 10 hours ago

What an incredible LACK of understanding about how jails...and our legal system... works.

VAST numbers of people are in jail AWAITING trial...a wait that has gone from 90 days to 150 days...because they can't afford bail. Period.

VAST numbers of people are waiting because we don't have enough JUDGES, not jail beds. Period.

And ALL people awaiting trial are CONSTITUTIONALLY innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Period.

Your ignorance is appalling.

Richard Quinlan 5 days, 12 hours ago

Seems there are two trains of thought against he new jail. The" I dont want to pay for it crowd" and the "its all so unjust crowd" . The I dont wanna's dont want to pay for a jail but are the same folks who want the city to pay for their sidewalks , bus service , art , and various other programs that folks like to argue about. The its so all unjust use statistics and arguments from cities other than Lawrence to say how unjust it all is. Facts are that Douglas County will let you screw up numerous times before resorting to ending up in jail. The courts and the county don't want you there. You have to convince them you're an idiot or danger to end up there. Our community needs additional facilities. Are we looking at any lower cost minimum security options ? It appears not. That would be my only criticism.

Richard Heckler 5 days, 7 hours ago

Prisoners cost a lot of tax dollar money to maintain to which the talk on this matter is seldom discussed. Don't forget health care gets quite expensive.

How many more tax increases shall we consider to house people some of whom might not need jail time yet had not the finances to protect themselves.

The talk came up a while back of sending prisoners back to their home towns for the long wait of a trial and let the home town folks pay their way.

Richard Heckler 5 days, 7 hours ago

The ALEC /Brownback people put an end to the speedy trial effort by allowing alleged violators to stay in jail for 150 days instead of 90 days.

That will increase jail population.

I think I understood this next statement correctly ..... prisoners can decline a legal counsel as many times as they wish which means another legal counsel will need to be appointed which also drags out the time a prisoner can stay behind bars.......apparently beyond the 150 days to say maybe years.

This will also increase the jail population.

Isn't there something wrong with this picture? We need to know how and why both of these situations came about. Which means until we know more this ballot may need to be placed on the back burner. If neither of the above are eliminated then more jail space will never be the answer.

It would also be good to give the mental health campus time to work which would provide we taxpayers with a better picture as to how many new jail beds Douglas County actually needs.

Why in the world did conservatives see fit to eliminate Mental Health treatment centers? This group has given Republicans a real bad image.

Calvin Anders 5 days, 4 hours ago

Linda, I agree that from the perspective of a jail administrator or an inmate, a failure to fund the jail expansion probably means some hardship. But we have to look at the system as a whole. Voters are not generally in a good spot to influence comprehensive policy directly. And no one piece of the puzzle will address the entire issue of unreasonably high rates of incarceration. Voters have to draw the line somewhere. If we are going to change the culture and draw down incarceration rates and work towards racial equity in our criminal justice system, we have to take opportunities to pressure the system where we can. Those in charge of law enforcement and prosecution and sentencing decisions seem to vehemently deny there is a problem with the continued increase in incarceration rates.

Richard Heckler 4 days, 15 hours ago

==The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor | The Nation ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create private for-profit prisons, a boon to two of its major corporate sponsors: Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut. https://www.thenation.com/article/hidden-history-alec-and-prison-labor/

==Guns, Prisons, Crime, and Immigration - ALEC Exposed Oct 13, 2017 - This page documents how bills pushed by ALEC corporations result in taxpayers subsidizing the profits of the private prison industry by putting more people in for- profit prisons and keeping them in jail for longer. The bills also would put more guns on streets and interfere with local law enforcement https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Guns,_Prisons,_Crime,_and_Immigration

==ALEC & Privatization - ALEC Exposed https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_&Privatization ALEC's "Private Correctional Facilities Act" would allow any unit of government to contract with a for-profit corporation to imprison Americans accused or convicted of violating criminal laws. https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC&_Privatization

==Private Prisons Industry: Increasing Incarcerations, Maximizing Profits ... Nov 17, 2011 - Through involvement in the leadership of ALEC , private prison companies have played a key role in lobbying for and passing harsher sentencing for non-violent offenses and other questionable activities. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-donnelly/private-prisons_b_1097667.html

==How ALEC & the Kochs Publicly Back Questionable Criminal Justice Reform ... Oct 3, 2016 - And CCA is just one of the many corporations that has been part of ALEC as it has pushed forward both for privatization of prisons, as well as measures to make people go to jail for longer—longer sentences. https://www.democracynow.org/2016/10/3/how_alec_the_kochs_publicly_back

==Criminal Justice - American Legislative Exchange Council Notable members include: https://www.alec.org/issue/criminal-justice-reform/

==Hidden corporate profits in the U.S. prison system: the unorthodox ... We find that ALEC seeks to expand the private prison industry in three ways: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10282580.2016.1185949

==American Legislative Exchange Council - Wikipedia Economist Paul Krugman wrote in 2012 that ALEC had "a special interest in privatization—that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

Richard Heckler 4 days, 15 hours ago

PROSECUTORS COULD END MASS INCARCERATION IN KANSAS - TODAY

They have the tools to fix our broken criminal justice system. They’re just not using them. You Make the Case is a criminal justice reform campaign led by the ACLU of Kansas to build safer & stronger communities.

How? By educating voters to urge their county prosecutors to seek alternatives to mass incarceration. Prosecutors make cases all day long, but now it's time for you to make the case for smarter solutions.

https://www.youmakethecase.org

Greg DiVilbiss 3 days, 4 hours ago

Mass incarceration seems to be a problem nationally but is it a problem in Douglas County Kansas?

Based on daily jail inmate statistics mass incarceration is NOT a problem here in Douglas County. The programs that we have in place allow many people to be released and enter programs that can help them.

If you think it is compassionate to send people out of the county or worse to sleep on floors in overcrowded facilities than I question your compassion.

If you have not taken the jail tour and you are against this measure I suggest you go visit and let us know what you think after.

The fact of the matter in terms of taxation, if you are a tenant and property taxes are raised, guess what you still pay those taxes in the form of your rent. If your grocer, hairdresser, mechanic, hardware store, Doctor, Dentist, etc. have to pay more in property tax guess what they pass it on to you!

With a modest sales tax increase, you at least have the ability to spread some of the cost to visitors in the community.

There is a lot of misinformation being spread by Justice Matters, I will give them the benefit of doubt that they are talking about national numbers but when it comes to Douglas County they are just wrong.

Vote Yes and show you care about people incarcerated and people who desperately need mental health services!

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