Douglas County criminal justice council starts search for staff

The Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council began the search process Tuesday of hiring staff and received an update on a pilot program that could reduce the Douglas County Jail’s population.

In the Coordinating Council’s third meeting since its formation in March, members agreed with one of its advisers on the need to find a coordinator for the group.

“The sooner you find a coordinator, the better off you will be,” said Margaret Severson, a professor in the Kansas University of School of Social Welfare.

Douglas County Commissioner and Coordinating Council chairman Mike Gaughan appointed a subcommittee of members who will work with Douglas County Manager Craig Weinaug on the search. Those members were Bob Tryanski, Lawrence Municipal Judge Scott Miller, retired Lawrence Police Department sergeant Susan Hadl, Bert Nash Community Mental Health executive director Dave Johnson and Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern.

It was the first meeting of the Coordinating Council since members toured the Douglas County Jail. Council member Edith Guffey said she found the jail clean but wondered why those eligible for work release programs continued to be incarcerated. It costs the county $70 a day to incarcerate an inmate and $17 a day to monitor someone through house arrest, she noted.

It did seem contradictory to incarcerate someone responsible enough to maintain a full-time job, but those convicted of offenses with mandatory minimum sentences had to serve the required time, said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson. The work release program did help such inmates keep or find jobs, which would help prevent future troubles with law enforcement, he said.

The discussion prompted Mike Brouwer, Douglas County Corrections re-entry director, to reveal to the council a Sheriff’s Office electronic monitoring pilot program. It allows house arrest through the use of ankle bracelets.

McGovern said the pilot program, conducted in cooperation with the district attorney’s office and district court, involved one bracelet. Monitoring bracelets are relatively cheap, with entry-level units costing about $15. The costs increases for sophisticated bracelets, which sound alarms and send emails to law enforcement should wearers leave programed access areas, he said. Those wearing the bracelets could be called on to help with their expense, he said.