LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Douglas County Commission hired locally based Treanor Architects to research what specific needs must be met if the county jail were to be expanded.
County officials said rising inmate populations and a greater need to provide mental health services will require an expansion of the county jail in the next three years, reported the Lawrence Journal World. When the $22 million, 196-bed facility originally opened in September 1999, officials predicted that an expansion would be needed by 2010 based on inmate projects.
The inmate population started to lag behind those projections, however, for several years. Bookings reached a high of 6,392 in 2006 and then decreased to 5,297 in 2012. Today, the population is starting to increase again. Last year, total bookings were up to 5,997 in 2013.
The biggest issue for the jail is that certain sections of the jail fill up faster than others, causing space management problems. For instance, the building was originally designed to only hold 24 female inmates at a time. Of the 5,997 booked last year, 1,644 were female compared to the 1,366 booked in 2012.
This year, the county budgeted $100,000 to house excess Douglas County prisoners in other counties. Next year, the county has budgeted $250,000 due to the increasing inmate population and an increase in the daily incarceration charge from Johnson County, reported the Lawrence Journal World.
To help mitigate overcrowding, commissioners hired Treanor Architects to begin a several step process that could eventually produce concept, architectural and engineering designs. The research will give a better idea of what the project might cost.
The study will involve evaluating the client type that would benefit from access to a mental health facility and project how many individuals may be diverted to those facilities. Last year, for instance, 37 percent of the people booked into the jail self-reported having a mental health issue, according to jail records. A study of how other detention centers use mental health wards and the required staff needed will also be conducted.
The studies will cost the county up to $184,650 and will take about a year, reported the Lawrence Journal World. If the county decides to pursue construction after the studies are complete, Treanor Architects will provide architectural and engineering designs to begin a construction bidding process.
All three commissioners approved the proposal.