KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Two groups tasked with reviewing and analyzing Jackson County’s Criminal Justice System have completed their work and submitted their findings to Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr.
The Jail Task Force was formed by White and consists 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 and 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 pre-trial risk assessments to reduce unnecessary incarceration
- 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 White.
“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.”
According to the press release from the county, 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 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,” Jail Director Diana 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.”
Three new facility options were explored, ranging in cost from $230 million to $270 million. Each option would require fewer staff, which would cut back on staffing and operational costs.
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 take in 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 press release from Jackson County said.
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.”
The full reports can be read below.