Champaign County Board To Vote On Jail Plan
A decision on what to do with the Champaign county jails will be made at Thursday night’s county board meeting.
A sheriff’s operation master plan was presented as an option for what the county can do with the downtown Urbana jail and the satellite jail.
The facilities committee already approved the plan with a 5-0 vote.
Chief Deputy Allen Jones said the plan will explore relocation to one shared building in order to increase efficiency.
“It takes a look at where the future of the sheriff’s office could be as far as the size and the different designs of the facilities and how to better accommodate the needs of inmates that we have,” said Jones.
The condition of the downtown jail has been a concern for years. This plan may result in the closing of that facility.
But, some community members are concerned that a new facility means jail expansion.
“If we have to close, if that’s the outcome, then where are we going to put those beds,” said Facilities Committee Chair Stan James.
James said a new facility would relocate beds, not add additional ones.
With full county board approval a planning process can begin, and is expected to last 4 to 6 months.
The meeting is Thursday at 6:30pm at the Brookens Administrative Center.
After weeks of delay, the Champaign County Board has agreed to seek out a needs assessment study for jail facilities.
The plan to bring in a consulting firm has been discussed for weeks. In Tuesday night's 5-hour committee of the whole meeting, the board agreed to an amended schedule for a criminal justice consulting firm to look at jail capacity needs. That firm will decide costs for either remodeling the jail in downtown Urbana, or expanding the satellite facility. The board is expected to award a contract by late July.
A number of amendments to the request for proposals were shot down. A couple came from Democrat Carol Ammons, who says she's still pleased overall.
"This process has long and tedious for the important reasons, right?" she said. "This is a huge undertaking, and I think we need a complete vetting of what we're going to actually do. And this is the beginning of that process."
Ammons did successfully seek out one motion, asking that a person of color from a minority-influenced county board district serve on a planning team that will also include sheriff Dan Walsh, State's Attorney Julia Reitz, and two other board members.
That suggestion didn't sit well with Reitz, who upset those who remained in the audience.
"Those of us who have volunteered to serve on this committee, to be part of this process, have the best interest of the county, and the system as a whole at heart," she said. "I'm absoutely willing to hear from anybody who has an interest, who wants to say something. But I do not think there needs to be a token person of color on the committee."
County Board Democrat and Facilties Committee Chair Tom Betz threatened to empty the room after members of the public snapped back at Reitz. The suggestion passed on a party line vote of 12 to 11, with all the 'yes' votes coming from Democrats. Ammons will ask the board to appoint her to that panel.
She and other members of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice have been critical of local authorities, saying there's a racial disparity of those incarcerated in Champaign County.