Commissioner Gwen Welshimer seeks to hire liaison to clear jail bottlenecks

Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer wants to hire someone to try to find bottlenecks in the criminal justice system that ultimately lead to overcrowding at the jail.

She asked County Manager William Buchanan on Wednesday to draft a job description for someone to analyze who is in jail and what keeps them there. The person would be a jail liaison who would work with commissioners about the jail's population.

She reiterated that she is not willing to add on to or build a new jail, saying that would be an "if you build it, they will come" situation.

Welshimer, who is running for re-election, has made the criminal justice system a major campaign issue.

Sheriff Robert Hinshaw oversees the jail.

Commissioner Dave Unruh said alternative programs such as day reporting, drug court and work release are helping to slow growth at the jail.

Unruh said he would need to see justification to add an employee who would monitor the jail's population. He said at this time, the county appears to be doing a good job managing the inmate population through alternative programs. He said he didn't think adding personnel was necessary.

Welshimer said every additional inmate costs the county $68 a day to house. The county could easily recover salary costs of a jail liaison, she said.

"We need to stay on top of that population," Welshimer said in an interview later. "We've got to have a system analyst over there."