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County OKs hire of third person for jail journal entries

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 22, 2010, at 12:02 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, June 26, 2010, at 12:49 p.m.

Sedgwick County is spending money to save money.

Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to hire a third staff person to handle journal entries for jail inmates headed to prison.

The Eagle reported in January that journal entries — paperwork required before an inmate can be transferred to prison — took an average 60 to 90 days to get to the Sheriff's Office. That meant jail inmates stayed in jail weeks after they were sentenced to prison, further affecting jail overcrowding.

In response to the story, Sedgwick County District Court Chief Judge James Fleetwood met with other judges to emphasize that the reports were a priority. The District Attorney's Office is responsible for writing the reports — which include criminal history, sentencing and other information — but that is just one step in the overall process.

The District Attorney's Office now takes two weeks to write the reports as opposed to the average six weeks it took before. By adding a third staff person, the office thinks it can complete its part of the reports in about a week.

Last year, the Sheriff's Office transferred 1,023 inmates to prison. The county has estimated that each day an inmate remains in the custody of the jail while awaiting a journal entry costs the county about $38. The county has estimated that each day the 1,023 inmates last year waited at the jail to be transferred to prison cost the county $38,874.

That means that the reduction of six weeks to one week could save the county more than $1.3 million based on 1,023 inmates.

The cost of adding a staff person would be about $45,737 a year, including benefits.

The county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, made up of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, commissioners, city leaders and others, recommended that the county make the hire.

Commissioner Dave Unruh, who previously served on the council, thanked the District Attorney's Office for its "cooperative response to trying to find a solution to this."

He also recognized Fleetwood for taking on the personal responsibility to reduce the backlog of journal entries as well as The Eagle for spotlighting the problem.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn noted that the jail's population Wednesday morning was 1,477 inmates, the lowest it has been since he became a commissioner last year.

He credited the response to the journal entry backlog as well as expanded pre-trial services for reducing the jail's numbers.

"We have challenges to confront" on jail overcrowding, but the county is making some progress, he said.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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