But the County Says

But the County Says . . .

This is a remodel, not an expansion.

The current plan will increase the capacity of the jail by 94%. That is an expansion.

Voting for this ballot measure is the only way to get mental health support facilities.

We should remember that the county commissioners are the ones who decided to combine jail expansion and mental health care together on the same ballot measure—despite significant public pressure to separate the projects. Quality mental health care for our community should not be dependent upon our willingness to lock up more people.

There are many possible funding sources for the proposed mental health support facilities. In most communities, mental health centers are not funded exclusively—or even primarily—through the county. There are many community partners who could come together to provide funding in a variety of ways.

The need for more space at the jail is URGENT.

Yes. And a $44 million expansion will take approximately two years to complete. Measures for decreasing the number of people in jail can be implemented next week if there is political will to do it.

We want to provide a healthy, therapeutic environment for the people in our jail.

First, there are ways to improve conditions at the jail without nearly doubling the jail’s capacity.

Second, this notion of “compassionate incarceration” fails to acknowledge that the most compassionate thing we can do is make sure that people who do not need to be in jail don’t end up there.

Our jail population is up because the state increased the time limit on moving a case to trial from 90 to 150 days. So people are staying in jail longer.

The state of Kansas has, indeed, passed some unfortunate legislation. But the fact that we can keep people in jail for 160 days before trial does not mean that we should—or that we have to. The change in state law means that Douglas County does not get adequate funding from the state to process cases in the 90-day time frame. We would have to spend county money to hire staff needed to expedite trials. Of course, we have to spend county money to add 176 beds to our jail.

We’ve already implemented alternatives to incarceration and the jail is still over-crowded.

The county has implemented some helpful measures such as a mental health court and ankle monitoring system. Some measures, such as bail/bond reform, are being discussed but are not fully implemented. And many other measures have not been tried yet.

In addition, we will not reduce our jail population by only putting in place better practices within the criminal justice system itself. We also need to invest in community services that help people keep their lives on a positive track such as: expanded mental health and addiction services, housing, transportation, job training and support, assurance of adequate food, anger management, parenting support, expanded case management, and restorative justice programs in our schools.

Currently we have to “farm out” inmates to other jails, and that’s expensive. 

More expensive than a $44 million dollar expansion and $6 million per year operating budget?

Other jails will only take our “best” inmates, and those are the people who could most benefit from the superior re-entry program at the Douglas County Jail.

Maybe the “best” inmates don’t need to be inmates at all. Maybe they could benefit from Douglas County programs that happen outside the walls of the jail.