Why did Kansas officials threaten opponents of jail expansion with a $3 million bond?

April 3, 2020. The Kansas City Star Editorial Board.

Douglas County Commissioners want to expand the jail in Lawrence, and they apparently won’t let anything stand in their way — not even opposition from the public.

And if citizens dare protest, they’ll be threatened with a $3 million surety bond.

In January, the county’s board of commissioners voted to add 112 beds to the Douglas County Jail, which currently has a capacity of 186.

A month later, attorneys for Justice Matters, a Lawrence-based activist group, submitted legal arguments requesting that Douglas County officials place the $30 million jail expansion in front of voters. Kansas law spells out a process to allow for a petition and ultimately force a public vote on projects involving the issuance of general obligation bonds.

Commentary: North Charleston Police Department still needs a racial bias audit

March 31, 2020. The Post and Courier.

In his recent op-ed, North Charleston City Councilman Ron Brinson said the city’s police department had a “mind-numbing wake-up call” nearly five years ago after the murder of Walter Scott by then-Officer Michael Slager.

For many black residents, the killing of Walter Scott was not a wake-up call but rather another example of their continued lived experience. And had a video of the shooting been held a few days longer, we likely would have witnessed yet another police department declaring as justified the shooting of another black man.

Group files suit to compel vote on jail

March 16, 2020. McPherson Sentinel.

LAWRENCE — An interfaith organization filed a lawsuit Monday to force a public vote on the Douglas County Commission’s plan to invest $30 million in a jail expansion.

Voters in the county rejected in May 2018 a proposal to rely on a 0.5% sales tax increase to finance an addition to the overcrowded jail. That vote was 13,811 opposed and 12,257 in support of the idea.

In January, however, the Douglas County Commission concluded a county ballot measure adopted in 1994 gave commissioners authority to issue bonds backed by current sales tax revenue to pay for about $22 million of the prison project with the remainder drawn from other county resources. The commission unanimously passed a resolution approving construction of up to 112 beds at the 186-bed Douglas County Correctional Facility.

How the fight for racial justice pushed Charleston beyond the segregated hour

February 24, 2020. Religion News Service.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (RNS) — On a Monday night in April 2016, more than 2,000 people packed into Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. The crowd included black and white Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, as well as Reform Jews, Unitarians, local activists and other community members. They weren’t there for worship but to confront racial bias in policing practices.

The gathering was the culmination of months of work by the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, which began in the intimacy of private homes the previous fall. People shared stories of the concerns that kept them up at night. A common refrain, particularly of black residents, was being stopped by the police for no apparent reason. The practice, known as an “investigatory stop,” had led to the murder of a black man named Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer.

‘It’s a major problem’ Justice Knox meets to discuss mental illness crisis behind bars

February 23, 2020. WBIR.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — For more than a decade, Leon Evans has worked to divert people with mental illness from jail in Texas.

He said he’s proven that treatment works in San Antonio.

“The Texas prison system is actually working on shutting down their third prison,” Evans told 10News. “The prison system actually pays for mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment.”

Now, he’s bringing his expertise to Knox County, Tennessee.

Justice Knox, which is an interfaith collaboration tackling criminal justice issues, hosted Evans for a series of meetings on Thursday.