Ten Reasons to Vote NO

Ten Reasons to VOTE NO
on the jail expansion ballot measure

  1. Jail is not a place for restoration.

When people spend as few as three days in jail, their chances of continued involvement with the justice system increase significantly. Time spent in jail can cause people to lose their housing, their vehicles, their family connections, and their jobs–and when these stabilizing factors are lost, people are more likely to end up in jail.


  1. Jails are the “front door” to mass incarceration

According to Vera Institute, a national leader in opposing mass incarceration. We want Douglas County to lead the way in finding alternatives to incarceration, not be a community that simply funnels more people into our nation’s broken prison industrial complex.


  1. People of Color are disproportionately represented in our jail population.
  • 18% of the Douglas County jail population is black, compared to 4.5% of the general population.
  • 7.1% of the jail population is Native American, compared with 2.8% of the general Douglas County population.


  1. The jail expansion is too expensive.
  • The County’s proposed 1/2 cent sales tax for the jail expansion will NEVER expire; this is a tax increase that will never go away.
  • $44 Million, plus an additional $6 Million EVERY YEAR, will be allocated to jailing the citizens of Douglas County, to the exclusion of other social and community services that we value
  •  A “yes” vote for this “half-penny increase” means you are also voting for an estimated 3.81 mill increase on property taxes.

$44,000,000 (to build the jail)

$15,959,000 (interest on debt)

$103,700,000 (operational costs for out years)

Total est. cost = $163,659,000 tax payer expenses to add 179 beds to our jail


  1. The plan is short-sighted.
  • Adding beds to the jail doesn’t address the root of our problem. We need to figure out why the Douglas County Jail had a 73% increase in Average Daily Population between 2013 and 2016 while neighboring counties have not seen a jail population explosion.
  •  Using the County’s own figures  from 2013-2017 (for population growth and the rate of incarceration), the proposed expansion will be FULL little more than a year after it is built.


  1. The plan is not adequately researched.
  • In 2014, the County Commission contracted with Treanor Architects to provide a wide range of services that included taking the lead on the needs confirmation—the process that determines how large the jail should be. Considering that Treanor gets 7.4% of the cost of construction, their role in determining the amount of construction needed is highly problematic.
  • Douglas County had the opportunity to invite Vera Institute or another recognized leader in sentencing and corrections research to help evaluate and transform our system, but instead they hired one lone researcher to create a report that barely scratched the surface of jail issues and analyzed only one alternative program.


  1. We have not exhausted opportunities to reduce our jail population.

The County has invested in some alternatives, but they haven’t explored nearly enough of the options that exist, nor have they allowed time to evaluate the full effects of the alternatives they are implementing. There are many effective programs that save taxpayer money, don’t require a bigger jail, and continue to keep our community safe. For example, the most recent report from Justice Concepts, Inc., a county-hired consulting group, provides several recommendations for improving criminal case processing.


  1. There are people in the Douglas County Jail who pose no threat to public safety.
  • An average of 140-150 people in the jail each night are PRETRIAL, which means they are simply waiting for their court date and are technically presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • Over 25% of people booked into jail are brought in for failure to appear in court. These include people whose court dates were connected to minor, non-violent crimes such as traffic violations.


  1. Our money would be better spent on restorative services.

In terms of creating a safe and vibrant community, services such as mental health care, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence prevention, affordable housing, and education will be less expensive and more effective than a massive jail expansion.

For the amount it will cost us to build and run the bigger jail, we could, for example, do ALL of the following:

  • Match TWICE the amount raised by the Douglas County United Way/year
  • Hire TWO more full time prosecuting attorneys
  • Provide TEN times more support to Douglas County Legal Aide/year
  • Double County’s capacity among District Courts
  • Match TWICE the amount of family preservation funds provided by the state
  • Build TWO Boys & Girls Club Teen Centers
  • Build another Rock Chalk Park
  • Build another Lawrence Library


  1. The ballot question language is too vague.

A “yes” vote on the ballot question would authorize the county to implement a one-half percent sales tax in order to fund a county mental health campus and the jail expansion. There is nothing in the ballot language that establishes a percent–or even a range–of how much money will be spent on each project. While the current county commissioners’ intentions seem to be to fully fund both projects, there is nothing that would legally require them–or future commissioners–to put a reasonable percentage of the tax money towards the mental health campus.


There is a better way!

Please VOTE NO on the jail expansion tax.