Douglas County Sheriff’s Office 2017, 2018 annual reports show fewer bookings, longer stays in jail
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
Fewer people were booked into the Douglas County Jail in 2018 than in the years prior, but the inmates’ average stays were about 4 1/2 days longer, recently published reports show.
The Journal-World reported in May about a number of various reports that were missing from the websites of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Lawrence Police Department.
Until last week, the sheriff’s office had not published an annual report since the one covering data for 2016. Those documents are about 40 pages long, on average, and packed full of data on the Douglas County Jail’s population, bookings, demographics, inmate health, programs, staffing, training and more.
Jenn Hethcoat, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, told the Journal-World in May that the delay was because a position that was created to analyze and report data was transferred to the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council before the data compilation was completed.
The 2017 and 2018 reports were published to the sheriff’s office’s website, dgso.org, on Thursday.
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The Douglas County Jail’s population had boomed prior to a downturn in 2019, and then a sharper drop-off occurred this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, the 186-bed facility was still packed, and many inmates were being housed in other counties’ jails to relieve pressure at the local facility.
Following recent efforts by those involved in the local criminal justice system to keep the jail’s population down during COVID-19, the Douglas County Commission last week voted to rescind a resolution that would have expanded the jail by up to 112 additional beds.
The annual reports for 2016 to 2018 show that length of stay was a significant factor in the crowding at the jail. According to the reports:
• The average daily population of the jail jumped by 23.2%, from 194 in 2015 to 239 in 2016. It dropped slightly to 231 in 2017 and rose again, by 1.7%, to 235 in 2018.
• The total number of bookings into the jail dropped from 5,908 in 2015 to 5,329 in 2016, rose slightly to 5,357 in 2017 and dropped by 3.7% to 5,158 in 2018.
• The average length of stay for inmates booked into the jail increased from 15 days and 5 hours in 2016 to 15.59 days — about 15 days and 14 hours — in 2017. It rose again, more sharply, to 20.04 days in 2018. That’s an increase of 28.5%.
According to information the sheriff’s office provided to the Journal-World earlier this year, inmates’ average length of stay fell to 18.06 days in 2019 — a decrease of almost 10% — and the average daily population fell to 219.
Since March of this year, however, the average daily population has fallen to around 135 to 145 inmates, weekly updates from the county show.
Other notes from the 2016, 2017 and 2018 annual reports:
• For 2016 through 2018, the largest plurality age group of individuals booked was 22- to 29-year-olds, who comprised between 31.6% to 34.5% of bookings.
• Douglas County spent a decreasing amount of money to house inmates in other counties’ jails — about $1.13 million in 2016; $994,880 in 2017 and $888,345 in 2018.
• Douglas County billed area law enforcement agencies at an increased rate per day to house inmates over the three years’ reports: $77.12 per inmate per day in 2016, $80.79 in 2017 and $86.39 in 2018.
• The reports note that the cost to provide medical care to inmates is unpredictable. By adding up the amount spent per year on professional medical services, prisoner medical care and medical supplies, then dividing that total by the number of individuals booked into the jail, the sheriff’s office determined that it spent $209 per individual in 2016, $171 in 2017 and $185 in 2018.
• On average, inmate workers are credited $7 per hour worked within the facility, with the exception of court-imposed fines, according to the reports. Inmates provided $259,392 in labor in 2016, $319,144 in 2017 and $332,528 in 2018.
• Turnover among staff of the jail was 11.1% in 2016, 9% in 2017 and 12% in 2018. The reports say that is “well below” the national average of 20-40% for workers in the corrections field.
• The reports include information on the number of concealed carry applications the sheriff’s office has received each year. The 2016 report notes that the Kansas Legislature changed the law to “constitutional carry,” meaning that anyone who can legally possess a firearm may carry it concealed without a permit. That change took effect in July 2015. The number of applications the sheriff’s office processed dropped by about half, from 261 in 2014 to 131 in 2015. The totals were 132 in 2016 and 89 in 2017, and the number rose slightly to 124 in 2018.
• The 2017 and 2018 reports omitted some information that was included in the 2016 report, such as hours that staff spent in training and what types of training were included in that time.
• The recent reports also leave out the total arrests per area law enforcement agency. The 2016 report shows that the Lawrence Police Department made 2,977 arrests, or 51.5%, and the sheriff’s office made 2,420, or 41.5% of the total. The third-highest percentage was the Eudora Police Department, with 163 arrests, or 2.8%.
• Information on officer uses of force within the jail — documentation of uses of pepper spray, Tasers or restraints, for instance — has not been included in the annual reports since the one covering 2013. Lt. Jay Armbrister, the presumed next Douglas County sheriff who won the Aug. 3 Democratic primary and faces no opponent in the general election, said ahead of the primary that he would release any reports and data that have not been released, including use-of-force data.
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