County Board Plans Extension for Receiving Jail Report
Champaign County Board members are granting a four-month extension for a consultant to complete a study of county jail needs.
The more than 200-page final document from California-based Alan Kalmanoff was expected in late May.
But the decision to push the deadline for releasing it to September on a 10-9 vote in Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting was sought to include an upcoming report from a community justice task force.
Kalmanoff says planning the separate document, due next week, was behind the original report, and the two need to be synchronized.
The extension will cost another $25-thousand on top of the initial $120-thousand, but he advised board members this action will save in the long run.
“Everybody’s sort of worried about a little more money for this time delay," he said. "But the amount of money at stake in this project to be saved in the criminal justice system, which is half the county’s budget – and in the facilities that are coming – is millions and millions and millions.”
The task force has sought changes in areas more pertaining to social justice rather than jail facilities, such as better mental health facilities for jail inmates.
The panel was critical of Kalmanoff’s initial draft report in a public meeting held May 2nd.
Tuesday night’s vote was largely along party lines, with most Democrats in favor, but Champaign County Board Chair Alan Kurtz says it’s still in question whether the 10-to-9 vote will hold up in the full board meeting a week from Thursday.
He said the vote was a ‘mixed bag’ - more about finances than politics.
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.