Editorial: Mental health center on ballot

July 20, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

Douglas County commissioners are right to support a ballot initiative asking voters to approve funding for a behavioral health campus and expanded mental health programming.

The issue, which still must be finalized, will be on the ballot in November. The move follows voters’ rejection in May of a half-cent sales tax proposal that would have funded both an expanded Douglas County Jail as well as the behavioral health campus.

That contentious vote failed in large part due to organized opposition from groups like Justice Matters that supported the mental health campus but were staunchly opposed to the expanded jail. The vote was 53 percent against the ballot issue and 47 percent for it.

At forum, public demands separate ballot question for behavioral health campus, services

May 30, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

At a public forum Wednesday, voters asked county leaders to end any plans to expand the county jail, as well as to pose a new ballot question that would only fund mental health and substance abuse needs.

The forum drew about 500 people Wednesday evening to Building 21 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. County commissioners scheduled it earlier this month after voters defeated Proposition 1, which, if it had passed, would have authorized a countywide half-cent sales tax to fund a $44 million jail expansion, an $11 million behavioral health campus and $5.1 million in additional behavioral health services.

Proposition 1 foes will urge county to move forward with behavioral health campus, hire consultant to review criminal justice system

May 23, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

A week after county voters rejected Proposition 1, two key groups in the fight against the referendum said they’ll push the county to move ahead with the ballot question’s behavioral health components while bringing in outside expertise to review the county’s criminal justice system.

The demands from the faith-based activist group Justice Matters and the social justice advocacy organization Kansas Appleseed are not new. The Jail No coalition, which consisted of those two groups, the Douglas County chapter of the NAACP and the taxpayer watchdog group Lawrence Sunset Alliance, made similar demands while it campaigned against Proposition 1.

Douglas County voters reject controversial countywide sales tax; leaders say jail project will proceed after public input

May 15, 2018. Lawrence Journal-World.

With nearly 26,000 ballots counted, Douglas County voters rejected Proposition 1 by a 1,542-vote margin on Tuesday night.

According to the Douglas County Clerk’s Office, 25,880 ballots were counted. Fifty-three percent were “no” votes, and 47 percent were “yes” votes.

If voters had approved Proposition 1, the measure would have authorized a countywide half-cent sales tax increase, which would have funded a $44 million expansion of the county jail, an $11 million behavioral health campus and $5.1 million in additional behavioral health services.

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.