Criminal justice group’s spokeswoman says expanding Douglas County Jail would contribute to nation’s mass incarceration problem

April 11, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

Rising jail populations among smaller jurisdictions such as Douglas County are contributing to mass incarceration in the United States, a spokeswoman for a national criminal justice policy organization said at a gathering Wednesday night.

Jasmine Heiss, director of outreach for In Our Backyards of the Vera Institute of Justice, spoke at Lawrence’s Carnegie Building at the invitation of Justice Matters, Kansas Appleseed and the University of Kansas’ Department of African and African-American Studies. Heiss said part of her role at the Vera Institute is advising municipalities like Douglas County on how to reduce the number of people they jail.

Justice Matters and Kansas Appleseed both oppose the half-cent sales tax that’s been proposed as a funding source for an expansion of the Douglas County Jail.

Douglas County Commission may be forced to put new mental health, tax plan on November ballot

April 9, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

Leaders with Justice Matters announced Monday they will start a legally binding petition drive to get on the November ballot an alternative to the $11 million behavioral health campus Douglas County has proposed.

If successful, the petition drive will ask county voters to approve a 3.5 mill levy increase to help fund the development of a crisis center and its operation, said Ben MacConnell, Justice Matters lead organizer. Using 2017 assessment figures, the mill levy would raise an estimated $4.2 million. It is proposed the tax would sunset in 10 years, unless approved again by voters.

Activist groups kick off their campaign against jail expansion

March 3, 2018. The Lawrence Journal-World.

Representatives of four activist groups crowded the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse Saturday to kick off their joint campaign against a proposed expansion of the county jail and a referendum on a sales tax that would fund it.

“We are planning a comprehensive campaign with many partners right up to that mail-in ballot,” said Ted Mosher, co-chairman of the Lawrence faith-based activist group Justice Matters.

Justice Matters is one of the four groups behind the campaign, which the activists are calling “Jail No.” The other partners — the Lawrence chapter of the NAACP, the social justice advocacy group Kansas Appleseed and the taxpayer watchdog group Lawrence Sunset Alliance — also turned out Saturday to speak against the jail expansion and the half-cent sales tax.

Editorial: Consider issues separately

December 19, 2017. Lawrence Journal-World.

If Douglas County does decide to pursue a mental health crisis center, any bond issue to fund the center should be presented separately from a proposal to build a new county jail.

A plan for a mental health campus was presented to Douglas County commissioners last week. The site is north of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center along West Second Street and northeast of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The campus would provide three tiers of housing for people experiencing mental health crises:

Bullying, restorative justice, equity work among issues discussed at school district’s Community Conversation

December 14, 2017. Lawrence Journal-World.

Around 50 people filled the Lawrence Public Library’s auditorium Thursday night for a public discussion on challenges facing the Lawrence school system.

The Community Conversation took place nearly a year after the district hosted its first event, which came after a tumultuous semester dominated by talk of racial equity and drew hundreds to Lawrence High School’s cafeteria. Race and other overarching equity issues were once again the focus Thursday night, along with concerns ranging from bullying and mental health services to curriculum and limited classroom resources.