Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s annual report shows bookings hit lowest in jail’s history in 2019

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Jail is shown in this file photo from February 2015.

A new annual report from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office shows that bookings into the Douglas County Jail in 2019 were the lowest the jail has seen since it opened in 2001.

According to the report, posted online Wednesday, the total of 4,363 bookings in 2019 is a 15.4% drop from 2018’s 5,158, which was the previous low. The 2017 total was 5,357, and the 2016 total was 5,329.

The monthly average of total bookings in 2018 was 430, which was a continuation of a downward trend since 2013, which saw an average of 500. In 2019, that number fell to 364, a 15.3% drop from 2018.

The average daily population of inmates dropped from 235 in 2018 to 219 in 2019, the report shows. That’s a decrease of 6.8%. The highest population in 2018 was 259 inmates; in 2019, that maximum fell to 236.

As the Journal-World previously reported, the average length of stay for inmates had increased by 28.5% from 2017 to 2018. It was at 15.59 days in 2017 and 20.04 days in 2018. It dropped by 9.9% in 2019, to 18.06 days.

Despite the lower population, however, the racial demographics of the inmate population stayed almost the same from 2018 to 2019. As the Journal-World has reported, studies for the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council have shown that the local incarceration rate of Black people is nearly five times that of white people.

The jail uses four categories for race: white, Black, Asian and American Indian. The percentage of white inmates rose from 76.2% in 2018 to 77.1% in 2019, and the percentage of Black inmates also increased from 17.8% to 17.9%. The percentage of Asian inmates dropped from 1.0% to 0.7%, and the percentage of American Indian inmates also dropped, from 5.0% to 4.3%.

CJCC members have said they hope several ongoing projects will help to determine the root causes of the racial disparities. Those projects include a law enforcement contact study and a project to map where arrests are occurring.

Douglas County commissioners in September rescinded a resolution to expand the jail after changes amid the coronavirus pandemic helped to alleviate overcrowding, the Journal-World has reported.

Other notes:

• In the past six years, 49 inmates have completed their high school diplomas through the sheriff’s office’s partnership with the Lawrence school district, according to the report.

• The county spent $138,443 less on housing inmates in other counties’ jails than in 2018 — $749,902 in 2019, down from $888,345.

• The jail received $244,204 less for housing inmates for area law enforcement agencies, despite a rate increase of $5.25 per inmate per day. Lawrence police housed inmates for 6,738 days in 2019, a drop of 2,820 days from the 9,558 in 2018.

• The annual reports since the one completed for 2013 do not contain data on use of force at the Douglas County Jail. Jenn Hethcoat, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said via email Friday that the decision to stop including that data was made by a previous administration. It is still available upon request, but it would take staff some time to pull, she said.

In addition, reports since the one covering 2016 no longer include information on arrests by agency.

“An individual booked into the Correctional Facility may have arrests from multiple agencies associated with a single booking event making the data set ‘arrests by agency’ misleading,” Hethcoat said. “The number of bookings would not match up with the number of arrests.”

Missing reports published

The Journal-World reported in May that several annual reports have been missing, both from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s website (dgso.org) and from the Lawrence Police Department’s website (lawrenceks.org/police). As of Thursday, the previous years’ reports that have been or are expected to be completed have now been uploaded to the departments’ respective webpages.

The sheriff’s office posted its 2017 and 2018 annual reports, which were delayed by changes to the position that compiles them, in late September. With 2019’s published this week, the reports are available from 2011 forward.

Lt. David Ernst, of LPD, said via email Friday that the department has uploaded its use of force report, taser report and annual report for 2016 Thursday after the Journal-World inquired about them. They were the last ones missing from the website. Ernst said they had been completed previously but were not uploaded to the website until yesterday.

The department did not complete an annual report for 2017 due to turnover in the position that compiles the report, but 2018’s has been posted. Ernst said the department also did not complete an annual report for 2019 and does not have one in the works; however, he said 2020’s is in progress.

“We are aware our external reporting has been inconsistent in the past,” Ernst said. “Interim Chief (Anthony) Brixius has made internal and external reporting a priority and we are working on an accountability system to make sure reports are completed in a timely manner.”

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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Related coverage

Oct. 14, 2020: Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council hopes that additional data, mapping will help see roots of racial, ethnic disparities

Oct. 1, 2020: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office 2017, 2018 annual reports show fewer bookings, longer stays in jail

Sept. 24, 2020: Douglas County joins new initiative to reduce jail stays, improve connections to care for those with mental illness

June 10, 2020: Lawrence Police Department finally releases report on use of force in 2019; 17 instances cited; officers’ actions found justified in all

June 9, 2020: New report shows Douglas County’s disparity between black and white incarceration rates is higher than national average

June 1, 2020: City leaders concerned over missing yearly reports from police; county leaders content with alternatives to sheriff’s reports

May 17, 2020: Where are the reports? Lawrence police, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office explain the absence of documents about their performance

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