Douglas County, Kansas has a population of 112,000. The Douglas County Correctional Facility in Lawrence is a 186-bed facility. The Douglas County facility population reflects the issues that jail facilities grapple with nationwide. 15% of Douglas County inmates identified themselves as homeless; 78% indicated that alcohol and/or drug abuse has resulted in social, economic and/or legal problems; and 40% of the facility’s pharmaceutical expenses are for psychotropic medications. The challenges of repeat arrestees abound: 24% of the total arrestee population account for 45% of the releases.
Sheriff Ken McGovern initially reached out to the National Institute of Corrections for guidance regarding an overcrowded facility that was only 6 years old. He wanted to ensure overcrowding issues were not taking precedence over public safety decisions. As a part of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s mission to provide effective and efficient public safety services to our citizens, we embraced thisof the TJC initiative: 1) expand inmate programming and services; 2) implement universal screening in the jail and enhance the jail’s capacity for assessment of inmates’ risk and needs; 3) facilitate greater consistency between jail staff and mental health providers working in the jail; 4) improve coordination and collaboration among local reentry stakeholders to support a seamless transition from jail to the community; and 5) strengthen data collection and reporting within the jail and between the jail and community providers.
Douglas County made great strides in meeting these objectives. It implemented Moral Reconation Therapy as its cognitive-based approach to programming had been a missing piece in addressing thinking errors of the jail popula opportunity with the Transition from Jail to Community project. Douglas County sought to accomplish the following objectives at the outset tion. The Proxy screening tool was implemented on all arrestees to measure risk levels. Initiating risk screening helped us validate that our criminal justice systems were making decisions that ensured higher-risk inmates were incarcerated. And criminogenic assessments helped identify gaps in programming that were not being addressing some of our inmates’ highest risks and needs. Douglas County was able to incorporate case managers to work with inmates from their point of entry into the system (jail) through release to the community, and provide post-release services in the community. In the area of data collection and evaluation, TJC helped Douglas County move from a focus on calculating inputs (number of meals served, number of tickets, etc) to looking at outputs directly related to programming efforts (length of stay, recidivism, level of risk).
Douglas County’s biggest TJC accomplishment is the development and strength of the jail’s collaboration with a set of invested, diverse community partners to support successful pre- and post-release transitioning efforts. Through participation on the CCCR, community stakeholders have played an active role in supporting the successful transition of persons who are incarcerated back into the community. Community-based case management services now occur at the “one stop” reentry center, opened in February 2011, to assist individuals who have returned to the community from jail. 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,” says Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern.
Douglas County made great strides in moving away from discrete programs and towards 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," says Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory. Sheriff McGovern adds, “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: Issue 1, March 2008; Issue 2, May 2008; Issue 3, June 2008; Vol.II, Issue 2, November 2009; Vol III, Issue 1, October 2010; and Vol IV, Issue 1, January 2011.
For more information, please refer to the TJC Phase I Final Evaluation Report.