Opponents of Douglas County Jail expansion not assuaged by cheaper plan

January 21, 2019. Lawrence Journal-World.

After Douglas County staff trimmed a cost estimate for an expansion of the local jail by $21 million, the most outspoken opponents to the first plan have not changed their tune.

Several local groups formed the Jail No coalition last March to oppose a May 2018 ballot question — Proposition 1 — that asked voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund behavioral health services and a $44 million expansion of the jail. In the election, voters defeated the measure 53 percent to 47 percent, or by more than 1,500 votes.

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.

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.