Commission to vote on jail consultant

After months of delays, Justice Concepts Inc. is expected to find out this week if it can continue to work on jail overcrowding in Sedgwick County.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to allow the firm to finish its contract, which expired in June. Consultants Nancy Insco and Allen Beck signed a $124,616 contract with the county in August 2008 to reduce the jail's population by 25 percent within 10 months.

Citing problems with cooperation and a lack of data, Justice Concepts didn't meet that goal and, according to its new plan to finish its original work by May 31, doesn't plan to.

The new deadline for that goal is marked "NA" — or not applicable — on a new schedule of tasks commissioners will consider Wednesday.

The county has paid Justice Concepts $78,449 of its original contract. Commissioners agreed to pay Justice Concepts an additional $28,511 last year for work deemed outside the contract, but the county has withheld $7,200 of that amount pending reports about whether it would make sense to use former Kansas Department of Corrections facilities in Labette and Butler counties to house inmates.

Justice Concepts has requested more time to finish part of its contract — not including the original goal of reducing the jail population — to receive final payment of $46,167.

Commissioner Dave Unruh has said he wants to end the county's relationship with Justice Concepts, citing the missed deadline and goal.

A majority of the board —commissioners Kelly Parks, Karl Peterjohn and Gwen Welshimer — have been supportive of Justice Concepts. Welshimer has been Insco's biggest supporter, but recently said she didn't know if the firm should finish it work, adding that "we'll probably just have to call it good."

Parks, Peterjohn and Welshimer have pointed to an expansion of pretrial services as one of Justice Concepts' successes.

Unruh has criticized the consultants for not raising a backlog of journal entries — paperwork required before an inmate can be released to state prison — as a problem affecting overcrowding.

The Eagle reported in January that journal entries were taking an average of 60 to 90 days to be filed, including a six-week turnaround time in the District Attorney's Office. Commissioners recently approved funding a third staff member in that office to bring the turnaround time down to one week.

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