County Board Has Mixed Reviews Of Final Jail Report
By Jeff Bossert
A consultant’s final report on the future of Champaign County Jail facilities suggests authorities should be more concerned about who’s being locked up, and not building new ones.
In what should be his last appearance before the county board Tuesday night, Alan Kalmanoff suggested alternatives to incarceration that are less costly to taxpayers, like work programs.
But he will respond to one suggestion made by board members, and will provide a list of recommendations, with their cost.
Kalmanoff says many police departments often target frequent offenders, and need to be more selective about who’s being sent to jail.
“Let’s say we steal a loaf of bread, and then if we have a job, a longtime residence in the community, if it’s a misdemeanor, if it’s not a danger to somebody or some other case, that we be issued a citation to show up in court, rather than book or incarcerate for two or three days at great expense to the taxpayer, pull the officer off the beat to do that," he said.
But some county board members were split in their response. District 2 Republican Stan James said Kalmanoff didn’t provide the definitive approach – the road map he wanted for maintaining the criminal justice system the next few years.
James said he wanted some steps on where to go, including the possible re-use of the downtown jail.
“Cause he did tell us in the beginning he had people on board that could do architectural work, and what have you," he said. "I didn’t see any of that. Basically what he told us is - here’s a plan, here’s some things you can do and should do, but it’s up to you guys to sit down and figure out how you want to do it.”
James also said Kalmanoff, who’s from California, needs to better understand Illinois law when he says local law enforcement should be more selective when it decides who's going to jail.
But District 8 Democrat Michael Richards called the report ‘great’, saying Kalmanoff was never brought in to tell the county what kind of jail it needed to build.
"He was brought in to look at the bigger picture," he said. "I think it should be seen as a real strength that some of the things that he is looking at are telling us how to reuse our facilities and do more with less.”
Kalmanoff’s other suggestions include a re-entry program that works with a probation officer and family to re-integrate them back in the community.
But he says the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department is starting to implement a few of his ideas already, including the installation of a partition in the county’s satellite jail that would let the county hold both men and women inmates at that location.
The final report from the consultant cost just below $150,000. The presentation of the final report was postponed by the county board in June to include the social justice concerns of a local task force.