Jail consultant won't seek contract extension from county

Justice Concepts Inc., a consulting firm hired by Sedgwick County to reduce its jail population, has withdrawn its proposal to extend its contract by 18 months and about $228,000.

The Kansas City-based firm drew criticism from some commissioners and the public for not meeting its original 10-month contract with the county, which expired June 4.

The firm's contract called for Justice Concepts to reduce the jail's population by 25 percent. The firm failed to do so. In August 2008, when the contract was signed, the jail's average daily population was 1,592. On Tuesday, it was 1,622.

Nancy Insco and Allen Beck, the principal partners of Justice Concepts, recently met with commissioners and presented a plan to work another 18 months on trimming the number of inmates in jail. They asked for an additional $228,530.

At least two commissioners — Tim Norton and Dave Unruh — appeared unlikely to support that plan.

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

Insco stressed Tuesday that she and her business partner are not walking away from Sedgwick County but decided for now to focus on the original contract. Justice Concepts may at some point again submit a plan for an 18-month contract, she said.

Insco said she didn't think there would be consensus on the commission to approve an 18-month contract.

"Rather than get into what could have been a very heated controversy between the commissioners, I thought it would be best to step back and finish the current contract," she said. "Quite frankly, I thought I took the high road there.

"At such a time that we satisfy the terms of the current contract, we will consider whether we want to resurface the request for the continuation."

So far, the county has paid Justice Concepts $78,449 of its original $124,616 contract plus $28,500 for work the firm said it completed outside of the contract. As of Tuesday, $46,167 remained unpaid pending completion of recommendations and reports.

Public safety director Robert Lamkey told commissioners Tuesday that Insco and Beck had estimated they could complete their reports by the end of March.

Commissioners on Tuesday said they wanted to know more about what Justice Concepts hoped to accomplish before agreeing to let them finish the first contract. That would require a contract extension since the group has been working without one since June.

"I think we still have a decision to make on whether or not to let them finish under their current contract. I don't know how that's going to go," Unruh said. "I'm still of the opinion that we have the resources at hand" to reduce the jail's population.

Unruh said he didn't know how he would vote.

"I suppose it depends on how the discussion goes and what's finally proposed. However, at this point, I don't know of any reason that I would change my mind that we have the resources necessary to do a good job and go forward. I'm still not convinced we have to pick up this lapsed contract."

Commissioners Gwen Welshimer and Kelly Parks have been supportive of Justice Concepts' work. Welshimer said the consultants were hampered by a lack of data on which inmates might be suitable for alternative programs such as work release and day reporting.

Welshimer said she understood why Justice Concepts withdrew its proposal for a longer contract.

"I expected it. They haven't been graciously accepted, and I don't blame them at all," she said. "What I worry about is who can replace that effort? The only option I see is building a new jail, and that means a tax increase, and I want a tax decrease."