Jail consultants ask Sedgwick County for 18-month contract extension

One commissioner's frustration with consultants hired to cut the Sedgwick County Jail's population became evident Thursday when they asked for more time and money to do their work.

Justice Concepts Inc. wants an 18-month contract extension with a price tag of about $228,000.

Its original 10-month contract — valued at $124,616 — expired June 4. It has not delivered on its promise to reduce the jail's population by 25 percent.

Commissioner Dave Unruh questioned giving the group more money when it hasn't completed its original work.

Unruh also asked consultants Nancy Insco and Allen Beck what was different or new about their revised proposal.

"Are these the same goals and strategies that were in the first contract?" Unruh asked.

"The wording isn't exactly the same," Insco answered.

The group's overarching goals remain the same and now are now delineated in 17 key objectives, she said.

Although Insco and Beck agreed to the goal of cutting the jail's population by 25 percent, Beck told

commissioners it would have been an impossible task to meet in 10 months.

So far, the county has paid Justice Concepts $78,449 of its original contract plus $28,500 for work it said it did beyond the contract.

Commissioners didn't vote Thursday on the extension request. There was little time for them to ask questions. Insco and Beck's presentation took up most of the meeting, and Insco asked commissioners to hold their questions until the end.

"I'm in favor of making sure that we get our investment on the first contract," Unruh said after the meeting. "I think it's only business wise."

Unruh asked Insco and Beck how long it would take them to finish their recommendations outlined in the original contract, and Insco estimated 60 days. Beck then said he thought it would take longer because of the upcoming holidays.

"I did not get an answer on that," Unruh said later, noting that he didn't understand how the group could get done in 60 days what it hasn't been able to do since it was first hired in August 2008.

Commissioner Gwen Welshimer wanted to move forward with the extension, but the rest of the commissioners said they had too many questions. Welshimer has been Justice Concepts' biggest supporter.

"When I look at the communication that's been opened up here, I'm just amazed," Welshimer said, alluding to Justice Concepts' efforts to engage all key players in the criminal justice system — from the sheriff to judges to prosecutors.

Commissioners have recognized that Justice Concepts was instrumental in expanding pretrial services, which helps keep people out of jail.

Welshimer echoed Insco that building an addition to the jail is not the answer.

"The county can never build its way out of this problem," Insco said of jail overcrowding.

Welshimer encouraged the county to trust Justice Concepts.

"If we don't do anything, we will bring the county to its knees," she said of overcrowding.

Commissioners are set to revisit the issue Dec. 1 or Dec 8.

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