Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Meeting 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
May 9, 2017
Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Meeting (CJCC)
County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, chair, called the regular meeting to order at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May, 2017.
No head count.
Gaughan moved to approve the revised minutes from 03/07/17. Motion was seconded by Leslie Soden and it carried.
JUSTICE MATTER PRESENTATION:
Joanna Harader, Pastor of Peace Mennonites Church made a presentation to the CJCC Council commenting on jail issues. According to Harader, more than three nights in jail can increase your chances for being in the system. Having parents in jail, increases child trauma. She wants to live in a community where we incarcerate the least amount of people as possible. Harader said wants a criminal justice system that keeps our people safe and uses our financial recourse well. She expressed concerns about moving forward with jail expansion without exploring ways to lower our jail population; and she feels research should be completed before a funding proposal on the jail.
Ted Mosier, Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church/co-president of Justice Matters, stated he feels jail overcrowding is not simply the Sheriff’s problem. Justice Matters got involved with this issue to discuss life in this region, inviting friends and family to join in conversations about their visions of a community. The most reported concern was a lack of mental health services. Justice Matters voted to make Mental Health Services their top priority. Their research has led them to believe the community needs a mental health crisis center with short term triage options, stabilization beds and sobering beds. He said he understands the need for more mental health services, but doesn’t understand the need for jail expansion and doubling the number of beds. Therefore, he believes the issues should be separate issues for the voters to consider. Mosier said Justice Matters is not opposed to any spending money on the jail, but will not support a $30 million jail expansion. Justice Matters feels the following four questions need to be answered:
• Why are we experiencing jail explosion?
• What are all the ways we can reduce the population in our jails?
• How do we make sure we are not complicit in the societal sin of mass incarceration?
• Are there more effective ways to spend our money to address jail overcrowding other than build a bigger jail?
Mosier stated Douglas County’s incarceration rate is low compared other Kansas communities, but has grown at a rate of three times the general population since 1999. He asked why that is. Mosier contributes mental illness, drugs and homelessness as drivers for the overcrowding in the jail and said he feels maybe we should spend our money on addressing these issues. Justice Matters believes all relevant research should be completed, reforms implemented and the effects studied before a final jail renovation plan is put before the voters.
Brent Hoffman, Justice Matters, said he wants to see Douglas County have a safety effective jail. He also believes overcrowding is a problem, but the solution is to either make the space bigger or remove people from the facility. Justice Matters believes in the latter and we need to take an opportunity to address the root causes of the overcrowding. He feels the research Justice Matters has concluded is that people are being incarcerated unnecessarily. Their search team suggests five decision- making stages to be analyzed and adjusted:
• Stage One Arrest Stage, training officers in crisis intervention. LPD has already trained 116 officers. Citation in lieu of arrest.
• Stage Two where charges are pressed: offer diversion, restorative justice neighborhood courts which offer alternatives to prosecution.
• Stage Three Pretrial stage: Bond and fee reform (Douglas County already doing), and provide failure to appear units.
• Stage Four Case Processing: Felony case management (heard Dr. Beck is studying this) and case packaging.
• Stage Five Sensing and Post Conviction: Re-Entry Program (Douglas County is already practicing), swift pre-sentence investigation reports (Dr. Beck is researching), accelerated sentencing action to decrease average time used to prepare PSI report initially decreasing jail days.
Hoffman said though Douglas County is already addressing many of these suggestions, Justice Matters would like the County to explore more options. Justice Matters feels these effective alternatives will scale back the money needed on the jail expansion and in return the County can invest more money in services.
Harader added other communities have found it is less expensive to provide services in the community then to incarcerate people. She believes Douglas County’s heart is helping people find restoration and healing. Harader said that is where she would like to see the County put our tax dollars so our spending reflects our values in this community. Justice Matters still supports the six recommendations provided to the Commission and the CJCC last October. The first two recommendations are related to the mental health crisis center that is to be established as soon as possible, and separate it from the jail on the ballot; shift focus from jail populations from compassionate incarceration to reducing the number of people in jail; final three goals suspend spending on jail facility plans, hire an outside technical advisor with expertise in safe, effective alternatives to incarceration to conduct a data based analysis; and conduct research. Harader feels Dr. Beck may address the driving force of incarceration and the safe effective alternatives to incarceration. There are three key components Justice Matters will be looking at if the County proposes a ballot measure to fund the renovations: Time line, size of expansion and price of expansion.
Gaughan responded there is an important distinction he wants to acknowledge which is the frame of the discussion surrounding jail alternatives, the jail and mental health services related to the justice system at this table and community conversations that often centers on what is the right thing to do. Today’s discussion seems centered around what needs to be done to gain support for future plans. This is a discussion that will be had in the community. He said he was troubled to hear that somewhere you were urged to lend grassroots support to a jail project. That is an inversion of what happened. Grassroots support was offered. Mike said he does not recall ever urging Justice Matters to support the jail expansion. He recalls Justice Matters offering to support it if certain conditions were met. With that aside, much of the information Justice Matters has raised Douglas County shares many of the same goals such as reducing the number of people incarcerated, the number of initiatives in place and those being used in other communities are keeping our numbers low. He said we’ve never felt like we are resting on our laurels and don’t have work still to do. Gaughan said he is glad Justice Matters recognizes the work the CJCC is doing. It’s easy to point fingers at Topeka to say they are having a downstream affect on local government. We have recognized the challenges and are filling in the holes that have been left. There are many instances where we have stepped in where the State has stepped out. Many of the people at this table have been working with initiatives and agencies to keep our numbers down. Our incarceration rate is half of the state rate, half of the national rate, half of the Bear County rate, one-third of the Oklahoma County rate, and a quarter of the Saline County rate. We are a national leader in reentry and nationally recognized for our work with people with mental illness in the justice system. We offer technical assistance to other counties in the state. We are a leader in this state and in the country in criminal justice reform, yet we acknowledge there is still work to do. The work plan you shared with the CJCC in February listed pretrial and behavioral health court which are our projects we have in the works. Our house arrest program, which is now moving forward, Jail population study, analysis of judicial systems and processes, crisis center planning, mental health co-responders with the City of Lawrence is part of the 2017 work plan, and our ongoing work groups, data analysis, our partnership with Johnson County for My Resource Connection all demonstrate we are on the bleeding edge of reform. All these things are designed to reduce those incarcerated and for treating people in the community, including those already incarcerated. Gaughan stated the support we want to provide people is more challenging when working with less than ideal space to deliver. We talk about buildings and beds, but we don’t always talk about inmates that want us to provide more. He said a lot of what was reported is in line with the visions and goals of Douglas County. He is not urging Justice Matters to lend grassroots support as they have a process to go through, but so does the County. He is very proud to work with the individuals of CJCC and said he can’t thank them enough for getting us to the point where we receive passionate citizen reports on their work.
Edith Guffey said Justice Matters should not assume that the CJCC has any unanimous thought about the jail or timing. The CJCC has not been polled on their opinion. She thanked Justice Matters for the work they’ve done that has raised some important questions. Guffey said we are all on the same page as wanting something that’s good and best for Douglas County and those residents that end up in our jail; and address who is in our jail and why.
Leslie Soden asked if the house arrest position will take on the responsibilities of looking for alternatives for those who fail to appear. Robert Bieniecki responded the house arrest program will deal with sentenced inmates and provide an alternative to incarceration with monitoring equipment and staff to manage. One of the programs Soden is referring to could be a person who works to fast track failures to appears, or any case that qualifies that could be brought forward quicker.
Soden asked the status of the phone call reminders for people with court dates. Scott Miller said the County has used some existing resources to address court issues. This has not been addressed on a city/municipal level.
Soden asked how the City plans to achieve this. Miller responded ideally through a joint effort between the City and the County because of the overlap of people in both systems. Bieniecki stated the County initiative is a pilot program. However the software the County Commission has approved staff to contract for is Automaun CPT Trial (sp) includes the function of a notification system, which will text or call the offender. Bieniecki said we hope to have this up and running soon.
Gaughan said the house arrest initiative could be a city/county partnership. Miller responded last year the city had approximately 6,000 house arrests through private providers. It is his understanding the County program will be offered to second and third DUI offenders only. There is some overlap there with the City and some people that may be able to be tweaked in the system to serve. Our core concern is that some people can’t afford house arrest. There is the issue of 6000 being privately funded and the extension of additional days and who would pay.
Bieniecki said the program is not defined yet. He would like Miller to serve on that work group team. The idea of DUIs came from Judge Kittel as a place to start. We need to get the program started with infrastructure in place and go from there.
Gaughan asked Bieniecki to describe the house arrest program. Bieniecki said the County would hire an individual to monitor hour arrest. There are different levels of security. Advance Monitoring Company can monitor alcohol in several different ways, either with a cuff or a blow system that uses a picture. Since technology changes and equipment becomes outdated quickly, leasing the equipment is the most logical choice. Later in the year, staff will look at competitors
Gaughan stated there are opportunities for discussion. Pretrial, behavior health court, probation, house arrest, home monitoring are all separate initiatives and we are talking about hiring an individual to do house arrest. There are a lot of similar services being provided either between court services, corrections, bonding companies or Youth Services. As this discussion happens there are more synergies to be found. I think we can do better working together.
Ben MacConnell, Justice Matters, said their hope is to talk about a system. He said our incarceration rate is low compared to other states and other counties, but it is growing more rapidly than our population. He asked why that is. The jail population has doubled in the last 17 years. MacConnell said when you build a bigger jail you have less incentive to understand why the population is growing because you have beds to fill. He wants the County to understand we are talking about 6000 bookings and trying to help 94 people sitting in the County jail at present. You can get down to the 2013 numbers just by looking at failure to appear, substance abuse, mental health and opening up new beds. It’s the sum total of reforms using the five questions proposed. MacConnell said yes, we have a low incarceration rate. But a bigger jail will only incentivize that and not address what’s driving it. MacConnell feels this is about case management and the amount of time people are spending in jail because the booking numbers are the same. According to MacConnell, Dr. Beck says we can reduce 50-70 daily jail population reductions with a full pretrial. If accomplished that is close to turning back to 2013 numbers. If we also look at case management and citations, we can have a criminal justice system that is restorative.
Soden said the duty of the CJCC is to look at the entire system. It’s easy to say just look at the big picture but government is based on a highly demographic process that relies on people to execute the processes. We are also relying on offenders that don’t show up. You can’t just look at one piece; you have to look down the road and that’s what we are working on. We all share a common vision. We are looking to improve the entire system. Soden responded to Guffey’s comment about polling the CJCC about their opinion on the jail expansion by informing the CJCC has not been instructed to determine that. Soden also mentioned there is tension between Justice Matters and Douglas County. She responded you are not on opposite sides of the spectrum. Everyone is doing what they can.
Guffey replied she is not lobbying to poll the CJCC. She is a lineal thinker and would like to hear the estimated impact on the jail per proposed program, and then at the end we can tell if it was a high or low estimate. She would like data on who is going to jail and why. Bieniecki stated at the meeting of which Guffey was not in attendance, he brought in a consultant out of Texas that discussed some of those issues. He also plans to bring in additional consultants.
Bob Tryanski thanked Justice Matters for the work they have been doing in the Community and pushing good conversations with the City and County. He said we talk about the jail being full and overcrowded. Tryanski said the jail is overflowing. The people that are affected by the overflowing jail have the type of destructive things happening in their lives we want to prevent from happening. When you take your best reentry candidates and you send them to other counties, they get none of those services. When they are in another jail it takes that much longer for a defense attorney to do their job and get them out of jail or to trial. If you have mental illness and you would be better served being treated in the community, it’s going to take that much longer to get you out. That is a very real piece of the dilemma that the Sheriff, the jail and the community faces. We have a lot of people suffering unnecessarily because we are waiting. Tryanski asked if we do the reforms and then wait until we can research them and analyze the results, what is the result in terms of the impact on the inmates in jail waiting for their cases to be dispensed. There are those in jail unable to get out of their cell for two hours a day. There are those sitting in other jails while we are offering more services in our jail than in other parts of the country. Tryanski asked where the justice for them is. He is not convinced the wisdom of the wait is very wise. All these pieces are in motion and he said he thinks we could have a more productive conversation if we could acknowledge this as another real piece of the challenge. We have real people in jail whose lives are being wrecked by that experience.
Harader responded a lot of the efforts by this group and the County are keeping people out of jail and that’s the benefit of doing the alternatives. Even if this body had the power to approve the jail expansion it’s a long process to build a building. It’s a quicker process to put people on house arrest and to call them about their court hearing. She feels if you have a bigger jail then it’s easier to just put people in it.
Gaughan said Tryanski brought up good points. Gaughan said as a Commissioner he has clarity on the need to do both. There is ongoing discussion on solving the space issues but lack of progress. The Sheriff’s perspective matters a lot. It is his staff that is responsible for managing, care and treatment of people in the facility. We don’t hear his voice often enough because he doesn’t have a choice. When people show up at his door he has to take them in. Gaughan said he has no regrets about the time spent on searching for alternatives. For the next phase of the jail to be a long-term solution, we have to get better at alternative solutions. The reality is we are a growing community with new and evolving challenges and old ones to overcome. All of those deserve thorough discussion and consideration. We have a forum to do that now.
Soden is concerned about how the relationship between the County and Justice Matters is defined in the media. The Justice Matters presentation where they put up the phone numbers of the Commissioners to mass text was terrible and unproductive.
Tryanski said he hopes Justice Matters seeks opportunities to come back to the meetings and keep dialogue going and explore possibilities.
Note: Commissioner Derusseau and City Commissioner Larson were present for this discussion
• Next Meeting: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 11:00 a.m., in the County Commission Chamber
Gaughan moved to adjourn the meeting. Motion was seconded and carried.