Several Jackson County legislators say they are open to temporarily helping Kansas City with new space for police detainees, but the county sheriff has expressed reservations.
Last summer the county told Kansas City it would have to account for some of the people arrested by its police department. The county says it’s losing money on the current arrangement under which those people are taken to the Jackson County Detention Center in downtown Kansas City.
The city is building a new jail, but that won’t be ready by late June when it has to take on the new inmates. So Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte on Monday came to legislators with a request: Rent us open space at the jail facility – with city staffing, cost and liability – for up to 100 people, up to a year.
“This move would be a stopgap … as we are building our own facilities,” he said.
“Again,” he stressed, “it would be no cost to Jackson County.”
The inmates in question are Kansas City police arrestees held briefly,
“These are just people that are being held and are bonded out in the morning,” said Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City.
Legislature Chair Theresa Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit, said it’s in the best interests of all involved for the county to work with the city
But County Sheriff Darryl Forte, whom the voters put in charge of the jail in a County Charter change last fall, was not warm to the idea. He pointed to various reports, specifically one by a recent grand jury, about poor conditions in the jail, and he described it as one of the worst in the country. The jail has been the scene of several incidents in which guards and inmates have been hurt, and that’s been the subject of lawsuits.
“Why would we want to rent something like that out?” Forte asked. He also said that space might be needed for other purposes and might have to be set aside for an emergency plan he said the jail needs.
Forte also stressed that his immediate concern is addressing issues in the jail itself.
“I’m more concerned,” he said, “with how we treat people, and the perception of how we treat people.”
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, said she and the other legislators are keenly focused on those concerns as well “because I still lose sleep over things that happen in that facility.”
It also isn’t readily apparent whether working with Kansas City would be Forte’s call or that of legislators. Galvin and others asserted it’s their decision to make, and they left the door open to working something out with the city.
“We’ll get back to you,” Tarwater told Schulte.