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County Eyes Creating a Sanctions House or Hiring Jail Consultant

KSAL StaffMay 17, 2017

The Committee to Reduce the Jail Population met today to update the group on the activities of subcommittees that were set up in February to look at the possibilities of:

  • Creating a sanction house
  • Creating a more extensive electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet) program
  • Clearing space in the third floor of the City-County Building
  • Providing services to those leaving jail and re-entering society
  • Hiring a consultant to improve processes used by courts, the jail, and other service providers

Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt reported on efforts to create a 20-25 bed sanction house, by possibly pressing the juvenile detention facility back into use.  His subcommittee received an estimate of around $50,000 to make plumbing and other needed upgrades.  Undersheriff Brent Melander estimated that if a sanctions house was staffed primarily with Sheriff’s Office Correction Officers and one Community Corrections employee, the salaries and benefits would cost $631,000/year.  Meals would cost an additional $35,000/year.  He projected that these costs could be offset by $255,000/year in savings on contract housing and $75,000/year in fuel and transportation costs (from taking inmates to contract housing in other counties).  That brings the total preliminary cost of creating a sanctions house down to $368,000/year.  It was said that a sanctions house might be used by those who have 1-5 day sentences.  Melander estimated that 90% of those housed there might be “working during the day”.  Because the facility would not be housing juveniles, and individuals would be there for short stays, Melander said it would be possible to put in bunks and house more individuals.

County Commissioner Monte Shadwick summed up discussions on increased electronic monitoring.  County Attorney Ellen Mitchell urged that a complete program be developed.  She said her office has no one to call if they encounter problems with individuals wearing ankle bracelets.  She said an individual wearing an ankle bracelet may be told that they are only permitted to go to work and back.  That individual may receive permission to stop and get gas, but that same individual may think it is appropriate to go to Solomon because gas might be less expensive there.  Community Corrections Director Annie Grevas said clients may be expected to pay for electronic monitoring activities.

Heitschmidt said he hoped the State’s Judicial Administration would award temporary funding so Court Services could pay an individual to scan boxes of files.  If the room could be cleared, it could possibly serve as an additional court room, a law library, or as additional space for the County Attorney’s offices.  Mitchell said her office pays to store files in two storage units; she too saw benefits of scanning files.

Efforts to coordinate meeting basic needs of inmates leaving the jail was said to “need improvement”.  It is possible an individual may be being supervised by Community Corrections, Court Services and other entities; when this is not coordinated, some individuals struggle to manage the different requirements of these supervisors successfully.  When Central Kansas Foundation occupies new space on Elm Street, it will have “crisis beds” that can be “locked down”.  Instead of taking individuals to jail with substance abuse and mental health issues, CKF may be the preferred place for starting treatment.

Twice, committee members met with a Dr. Beck, who has submitted a “three tier” consulting proposal.  The group also is approaching a Dr. Holsinger about doing the same.  Grevas proposed that all other subcommittees wait to continue with their efforts until the committee knows “what possibilities a consultant can provide”.  Grevas said it may take more than 30 days to accomplish this step; no additional meeting of the committee was scheduled.

Shadwick said, “There is no smoking gun; there is no one thing that will reduce the jail population”.  Group members went on to say that implementing different programs could show some impact—both in the numbers being held and in reducing the numbers who return to jail.]

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