FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 11, 2019
Contact: Marshanna Hester
Criminal Justice findings and recommendations released
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two groups tasked with reviewing and analyzing Jackson County’s Criminal Justice System have successfully completed their work and have submitted their findings to Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr.
The Jail Task Force, formed by the County Executive, consisted of community, law enforcement, judicial and elected leaders. Following a competitive bid process, Jackson County selected a team of consultants, led by Shive-Hattery and HDR, to assist and provide an independent report.
Working alongside, but independently of each other, both groups recommended system-wide changes to the County’s Criminal Justice System, including but not limited to, the formation of a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, improving pretrial risk assessments to reduce unnecessary incarceration and a new detention facility for a more effective and efficient system that offers both safety and justice in equal measures.
“I agree with the recommendation that Jackson County would be best served by a new jail,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr.
Based on their research of the County’s criminal justice system, experts identified the following key findings, which can be found in the consultant’s report:
Experts analyzed those findings and identified multiple opportunities to reduce unnecessary incarceration, which include the following recommendations:
“Both reports make it very clear that if no changes are made to our criminal justice system, Jackson County will continue to contend with deeply rooted issues, such as increasing incarceration rates, a disproportionate number of black men in jail and rising operational costs,” White said. “Solving these problems will never be easy, but we must put our differences aside and work together to build a better, balanced system.”
If the County’s criminal justice system continues operating at its status quo, up to 1,800 jail beds will be needed by 2040. However, capacity needs could be significantly reduced to approximately 1,300 jail beds if system reforms are implemented and the partnership with the Kansas City Police Department to hold municipal detainees is terminated.
“I commend the County Executive, who has been steadfast and justified in his reasons for wanting to look deeper into the root causes of long-standing issues at the jail,” said Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté. “The information in these reports will be helpful during the administrative transition, which is a process and not an event. I look forward to further review of the recommendations with jail director Diana Turner. Decisions must be made, but we will work with elected officials to move forward openly, honestly and collaboratively in the best interest of Jackson County.”
“My focus has always been, and will continue to be, ensuring safety and security at the jail,” Turner said. “We have made great strides under the leadership of the County Executive and I am confident that we will build on that progress with Sheriff Forté.”
The Jail Task Force and the consultant team agree that a new jail is needed in order to provide appropriate capacity and resources to better serve the safety and security needs of detainees, staff and the public.
Three new facility options were explored, ranging in cost from $230,000,000 to $270,000,000. Each option would require fewer staff, saving millions of dollars in staffing and operational costs. A new facility would also eliminate the need to relocate detainees during a renovation, be more energy efficient and be in compliance with American Correctional Association standards.
Last year, White recommended that the Jackson County Legislature reverse the voluntary reductions of the property tax rate. By reversing the reductions, Jackson County will recapture an estimated $19.5 million annually in previously authorized revenue. Many needs can be addressed with the revenue, however, the first priority would be the jail. The Legislature voted unanimously to reverse the voluntary reductions of the property tax rate.
“I commend the Jackson County Legislature for taking the necessary action that will provide sufficient funding toward a new facility,” White said. “It’s a critical need and we are taking the appropriate steps to address it.”
White is deeply grateful to the Jail Task Force and the consultant team for the extensive time and effort required to complete this critical task our community deserves.