Chief Judge suggests alternatives to alleviate jail overcrowding

Chief Judge Richard Smith met with Bourbon County Commissioners this morning to discuss alternative sentencing for inmates in specific cases, as well as courthouse security. Smith, who presides over Lynn, Miami and Bourbon County courts, brought suggestions and ideas to the table in order to help reduce overcrowding in the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center (SEKRCC).

Smith commented that at one time, the SEKRCC had plenty of room, and people were farming out prisoners to be housed in Bourbon County’s jail. “It was a whole different ballgame,” Smith said.

“We’ve done some things in Lynn County to cut back” on costs involved in housing prisoners, Smith said.  “We have kind of an information screening, the jailer and the judge. If we think someone is a candidate for House arrest, we are doing electronic monitoring on some of those folks.”

Smith also mentioned use of the Owner Recognizance (O.R.) Bond, in which a defendant unable to produce a bond signs an agreement to appear in court. According to the Oklahoma County Court Services website, in the interest of public safety, only inmates whose history has been examined and who have been deemed eligible are able to obtain an O.R. Bond.

County Attorney Terri Johnson asked if Smith had written guidelines on the O.R .program and house arrest. Smith replied that he did have written guidelines in place for the O.R. program, but that the house arrest option for prisoners was decided on a case-by-case basis.

Smith said that the two main issues faced by the area are “substance abuse” and issues with cognitive decision making. “It is a problem, because here is the issue, to be blunt. What we need is programming for [inmates]. There really is an issue here about the number of interventions provided,” Smith said. “The problem is the lack of programming dollars . . . to help these people succeed.”

Smith also brought up recent legislation that has made a difference in violations in other states. Kansas House Bill 2170 allows for a change in the incarceration process in certain cases. According to the summary of legislation for the bill, if a defendant waives the right to a hearing and the court has not “specifically withheld the authority of court services,” the defendant may be put in prison immediately by a probation officer or other court services authority for a short term of 2-3 days, but may only be held 6 days total per month in a 3 month period if incarcerated under this process. Smith said that this practice had been used successfully in other states. “The effect in Georgia and North Carolina was a radical drop in jail time,” Smith said. “It’s the immediacy of reprimand,” Commissioner Barbara Albright said.

In addition, Smith discussed courthouse security  with the commissioners during a 30 minute executive session. Commissioner Harold Coleman moved to go into executive session with Chief Judge Richard Smith, County Attorney Terri Johnson, Undersheriff Bill Martin and the commissioners present. No action was taken.

“It’s really the public that’s the concern,” Smith said of courthouse security. Everyone talks about the criminal cases—that’s not the problem. It really isn’t.” Smith explained that more routine type of cases, such as divorce cases, could cause a security concern. The remainder of the conversation concerning security matters was held the executive session.

In other business:

  • Joey Collins reported that pavement on 205th Street had been damaged by heavy equipment. Collins said that a silver dually truck pulling a trailer had unloaded a rubber-mounted piece of heavy equipment onto the freshly paved road, in the process cutting through the newly deposited asphalt. Citing a message from Public Works Foreman Marty Pearson, Albright said, “The ramps of the backhoe trailer cut into the asphalt about a ½ inc. For right now they are going to try to patch it in the spots.”
  • Frank Miller came to talk to the commissioners about Daryl Brown signing tickets on his account at the landfill. As long as it’s Miller’s bill, he can sign,” Commission Chairman Allen Warren said.
  • Commissioners considered bids for a vehicle for the County Road and Bridge Director/Coordinator, who will start work for the county August 12th. Bids received for the vehicle were submitted from a Pittsburg-area dealership which bid $28,381, and from Shepherd Team Auto Plaza, which bid $28,337 for a 2013 GMC Sierra. Warren moved to accept the low bid from Shepherd Team Auto Plaza.
  • County Attorney Terri Johnson brought a revised version of the agreement from Wray Roofing to the meeting. “I suggest to you that we wait,” Johnson said of signing the contract. Johnson said that the current contract price reflects sales tax. County Clerk Kendell Mason said that she had filed to the state for tax exemption on the roofing work, and that she was still waiting to receive the exemption.
  • County Emergency Manager Terri Coop reported on storm damages from July 29th. “We have about 200 miles of gravel road severely damaged,” Coop said. “I didn’t see any specific bridges that were structurally damaged.” However, Coop did say that bridges had collected debris. That’s where all Marty’s gravel is—on the bridges,” Coop joked. Coop said that KDEM (Kansas Division of Emergency Management) had asked if the county were going to file to the state concerning the damages. Coop has been working to start the process, and asked commissioners to pass a resolution to start the process on a damage declaration report. Commissioners approved Resolution 23-13 to start the process.Coop also reported that her budget would be coming in, “barring emergency,” between 5-8% below the amount allotted for 2013. 



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