Monday, July 20, 2009

The information we need to commit to a regional jail

Today I delivered a request for proposal to City Manager Wayne Cauthen and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders about the new regional jail. This document outlines the needs of the KCPD in a new jail and requests the information we’ve been asking for all along – like who the project manager is supposed to be. You can see my letter to the City Manager here, and the request for proposal here.

Some city and county officials have said the police department has unnecessarily stalled the regional jail project, and the Jackson County Legislature voted last Monday to move the project forward without our involvement. I can assure you that our reticence on this matter is not over trivial details. It is about effectively protecting the people of this city from violent criminals who should be in custody.

Nearly everyone who goes to jail in Kansas City comes through the police department’s detention facilities first. It is our duty to assure that these inmates are kept securely and that their physical needs are met. We also are responsible for booking all inmates, assuring they are safely transported to court and other facilities and assuring that investigators have access to inmates to question them. To date, no one has told us how any of this will be handled in the new jail. Our request for proposal asks for things as basic as a flowchart showing how an inmate will be booked, secured and transported. Because if this is not done correctly, public safety could be jeopardized, and the police department will be held responsible.

I hope you understand why it is absolutely vital for us to know the answers to these questions. It is not a matter of being uncooperative or trivial; it is a matter of safety. As much as I want to get out of the jail business, I cannot, with good conscience, jump into a project like this without knowing things as simple as whether the new facility can handle as many arrests as KCPD’s current facility or whether there will be enough computers for officers to book inmates.

I invite you to read our request for proposal for yourself so you can see the kinds of questions we need to have answered before joining in the regional jail project. We have requested responses from the County and the City by Sept. 4.

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