Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda facilitated a discussion about data analysis for racial and ethnic disparities during the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s virtual meeting on Oct. 14. Ananda chairs the Racial and Ethnic Disparities work group, which was seeking direction from the Council members about what they would hope to learn from an analysis of racial data.
For example, she asked: Do you want to focus on individual behaviors or policies, procedures and statutes that are disproportionately impacting the community.
Members agreed that there’s an abundance of data that can be analyzed, so the need to focus is instrumental to making progress. They also talked about the complexity of interpreting data. For example: Is there a race disparity in who is reporting crimes?
The Council identified two priorities:
- Create a map of the decision points in the Douglas County criminal justice system. The map would explain who makes decisions, what decisions can be made, and what data has been collected.
- Follow a series of steps for data analysis. These steps would be: mine and analyze the data, review the analysis with knowledgeable criminal justice partners, review the data with the work group, review the data with a person of lived experience, present the data and analysis to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC).
CJCC members discussed the desire to know how criminal history factors into decision-making, but acknowledged obtaining such information is difficult. Criminal Justice Services Director Pam Weigand suggested analyzing the probation population because criminal history is scored and documented.
The work group will evaluate the CJCC’s suggestions at its next meeting on Oct. 29.
Capt. Gary Bunting, of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, provided an update on the Douglas County Correctional Facility population. He said they typically have between 120 and 130 inmates in the building. They are housing 11 people out of county. They still have challenges due to COVID-19 because they need to create space for separating and isolating individuals as needed.
The maximum security unit is at capacity and so they are housing some of these inmates in the medium security unit.
“While our numbers are down, we still do have some significant challenges ahead of us,” he said.
Mike Brouwer, Criminal Justice Coordinator, talked about the newest initiative from Stepping Up: Set, Measure, Achieve - a nationwide call to action to reduce the prevalence of mental illness in local justice systems.
The multi-year effort will focus on creating measurable reductions to the Douglas County Corrections Facility population with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and achieving:
- Jail Bookings: 10% reduction annually. (In 2019, the SMI population in the Douglas County Corrections Facility was 9%, the goal equals a 1% reduction).
- Average Length of Stay (ALOS): 5% reduction annually. (In 2019, the average length of stay was 27 days, the goal will be 25 days).
- Connections to Care: establish an electronic data collection process. Douglas County has not collectively tracked data about whether people connect with the care they are referred to.
- Recidivism: 5 percent reduction annually. (In 2018, the county had a 66% recidivism rate, the goal will be a 62% rate).
Brouwer said Douglas County is working with The Council for State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to produce a “data dashboard” that will display the county’s progress online.
Mallory Lutz, of Little Government Relations, talked about criminal justice reform work that’s underway among state legislative committees. These committees include: Race Equity & Justice, the Pre-trial Justice Task Force, the Criminal Justice Reform Commission, Kansas Sentencing Commission, and the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee.
Douglas County has contracted with Little Government Relations for the 2021 state legislative session. Little Government Relations will provide the County with monthly updates that also will be shared with CJCC members to help keep them informed. While the CJCC does not commit to policy or advocacy agendas, many members are engaged in advocacy at the state level.