A company hopes to open a halfway house for about 130 federal prisoners on Blue Ridge Boulevard just outside Independence.
A change in zoning to accommodate those plans goes to Jackson County legislators next week. The county plans a hearing at 12:15 p.m. Monday downstairs in the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse at 308 W. Kansas Ave., on the edge of the Square in Independence.
The company, KADO Partners, which also is called Working Partners, says no sex offenders would be among those staying at its residential re-entry center. It says the facility in the old John Stark School could open in two to three years with a staff of about 42.
The school building, at 1624 Blue Ridge Blvd., is in unincorporated Jackson County. It’s on the west side of the road just south of Truman Road near dozens of houses and not far from the Cimarron Apartments. Working Partners, based in San Diego, runs halfway houses for the federal Bureau of Prisons and is seeking a 10-year contract for this site.
“We would not take a violent offender, and we would not take an arsonist. We do not take child molesters, we would not have any sent to us,” Barry Rubin, founder and executive director of Working Partners, told the county Plan Commission last month, according to a county transcript.
Rubin said the facility would have 115 men and 15 women, generally white-collar criminals and all scheduled for release in the Kansas City area. Most stay about six months, finishing their prison sentences and doing such things as finding work and reconnecting with family.
He said there’s a clear need: Kansas City area prisoners now are sent to St. Louis for community re-entry, so when they eventually are freed in Kansas City they essentially have to start over in finding a job and making other community connections.
The company doesn’t plan to fence the property.
“This is not a prison,” Rubin told the Plan Commission. “People will have access to the community. Everyone will have an itinerary as they go in and out of the facility. When they go out, we know they are at work, looking for work, medical or whatever their itinerary is; they come and go with our blessing. We also do background, talk to their boss to see if they are where they are supposed to be.”
He said there are four room checks a day, daily tests for alcohol and random drug tests – and more drug tests for those with a history of use. Those who mess up are turned over to federal marshals and taken back to prison. He said few people walk away.
Rubin acknowledged that neighbors have raised concerns. About three dozen people attended a meeting on the plan last fall, and most were opposed. One was Chris Dahl, who lives a few doors away and told the Plan Commission, “To me, a halfway house sounds like an entryway for problems.” He indicated Rubin’s comments eased his concerns somewhat.
The county says the property, which also once housed a church, has changed hands several times over the years and now is in the county’s land trust. It’s described as an eyesore that has attracted crime.
Rubin also talked about his passion for restoring old buildings – the school dates to about 1930 – and putting them back into use. Heavy brush in the area would be thinned and a community garden planned, he said.
“It’s a beautiful building,” he said, “and I hope to bring it back.”