The TJC Sites: Douglas County, Kansas

Douglas County, Kansas, has a population of 112,000. The 186-bed Douglas County Correctional Facility in Lawrence reflects the issues that jail facilities grapple with nationwide. Fifteen percent of Douglas County inmates identified themselves as homeless; 78 percent indicated that alcohol or drug abuse resulted in social, economic and/or legal problems; and 40 percent of the facility's pharmaceutical expenses are for psychotropic medications. The large number of repeat inmates means that 24 percent of the inmate population accounts for 45 percent of the releases.

Sheriff Ken McGovern initially reached out to the National Institute of Corrections for guidance regarding an overcrowded facility that was only six years old. He wanted to ensure overcrowding issues did not take precedence over public safety decisions. The Sheriff's Office adopted TJC Initiative measures and

  • expanded inmate programming and services,
  • implemented universal screening in the jail and enhance the jail's capacity for assessment of inmates' risk and needs,
  • facilitated greater consistency between jail staff and mental health providers working in the jail,
  • improved coordination and collaboration among local reentry stakeholders to support a seamless transition from jail to the community, and
  • strengthened data collection and reporting within the jail and between the jail and community providers.

Douglas County made great strides in meeting these objectives. The Proxy screening tool was implemented on all arrestees to measure risk levels. Risk screening confirmed that the county's criminal justice systems were making decisions that ensured higher-risk inmates were incarcerated. Assessments helped identify gaps in programming that were not addressing some of the inmates' needs. Douglas County incorporated case managers to work with inmates in jail, and provide postrelease services in the community. TJC helped Douglas County move from calculating inputs (e.g., number of meals served, number of tickets) to looking at outputs directly related to programming efforts (e.g., length of stay, recidivism, level of risk).

Douglas County's biggest TJC accomplishment was developing and strengthening the jail's collaboration with community partners to support successful transitioning efforts. Community-based case management services now occur at the one-stop reentry center, which opened in February 2011. The reentry center is located within the community's United Way office building, along with several other community-based providers; this configuration has prompted collaboration with other providers and allowed the reentry effort to leverage new resources. "A reentry effort isn't just the jail's responsibility. It is a system of partners throughout our communities," Sheriff McGovern said.

Douglas County moved toward a fully integrated community transition system. "The TJC effort in Douglas County has been a successful and substantial step toward achieving a community-wide transition system. All stakeholders and the general public will benefit from this forward-looking and broad-based approach," said Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory. Sheriff McGovern added, "We look forward to many years of enhancing our existing program and expanding efforts to fill identified needs as they arise in the name of public safety. We are also eager to share our successes and challenges to help other communities build their own reentry efforts."

Additional information on Douglas County's reentry efforts is available in this factsheet and in their reentry newsletters from March 2008May 2008June 2008,  November 2009October 2010, and  January 2011.

For more information, please refer to the TJC Phase I final evaluation report.