Champaign County Board to request proposals for jails study

URBANA — After several weeks' delay, the Champaign County Board late Tuesday night agreed to issue a request for proposals to conduct a comprehensive assessment of jail needs.

The purpose of the study, to be conducted by a criminal-justice consulting firm, is to review the county's current and future adult corrections capacity requirements and the costs associated with either remodeling the downtown Urbana jail or building an addition to the satellite jail in east Urbana.

The study could be the first major step in what some county officials hope is the shuttering of the 32-year-old downtown jail, which is said to have numerous deficiencies and is inefficient to operate.

Among the numerous amendments to the request for proposals that were voted on Tuesday night, one would have substituted the entire 27-member county board for an eight-member project planning team that includes, among others, the state's attorney, sheriff, jail superintendent and two board members. That motion failed, 16-7.

Another motion to include a person of color from a minority-influenced county board district on the eight-member project planning team generated a brief period of controversy when State's Attorney Julia Rietz said she did "not think there has to be a token person of color on the committee." The statement prompted an outburst from the few people still in the audience at 11:15 p.m.

It was approved 12-11 with all the "yes" votes coming from Democrats.

Under the timetable approved by the county board in a 5 1/2-hour meeting Tuesday, the contract would be awarded this summer.

The board also approved the appointment of Jermaine Raymer of Champaign to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board. Raymer, who said in his appointment-request form that he is daily bus rider, was chosen over Thomas Shaw, also of Champaign. Both are Republicans, seeking to succeed Al Anderson, also a Republican.

Three of the 27 board members were absent Tuesday — Republicans Steve Moser and Max Mitchell and Democrat Brendan McGinty.

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HOCKEYDAD wrote on March 07, 2012 at 9:03 am

This issue has been studied by committees, paid outside consultants, architectural firms and the County Board ad nauseum. The bottom line here is that the 1980 jail was built as cheaply as possible under orders by the State to replace a jail that had long since reached the end of its useful life. Design and construction was overseen by a County Board that was hostile towards being forced by the State to build the jail in the first place, and cut as many corners as possible. The jail was of a poor design that allowed for far too much communication between inmates and it was under built, so much so that it opened AT capacity on the very first day. Maintenance at that building has always been a nightmare. The roof has leaked since it was built. The HVAC systems have never worked efficiently. The County's short-term solution was to double-bunk cells that were not designed to do so, but even that didn't last long. Eventually the county was spending millions of dollars to board inmates in other county jails. We were sold the so-called "Satellite" jail to end the boarding of inmates outside the county. This also proved to be a temporary fix as very shortly BOTH jails were at capacity again. The County undertook another double-bunking project, this time at the satellite jail. Now we had 2 jails holding more inmates than they were designed to hold. Holding cells became temporary sleeping dorms for inmates until space could be found to house them. As you can imagine this makes for a very dangerous situation for both inmates and jail staff when you stack humans on top of one another in space that was not designed to accommodate them. As yet another fix, the county came up with a group of Jail Staff and Court Administrators to expedite the release of inmates to help relieve overcrowding. This only helped for a little while as the Sheriff, correctly so in my opinion, decided that the 1980 jail was simply too dangerous and outdated to keep housing the amount of inmates it was holding. As a result, we now have inmates living in the booking area at the Satellite jail. An area that was only ever designed to house inmates temporarily. As you can see from all this, the County has a LONG history of refusing to deal with jail issues on anything besides a temporary basis. These problems have been studied over and over. Millions of dollars have been spent on consultants and meetings and housing inmates in other county jails. Until we address these issues FOR REAL, they will continue un-abated. In my opinion, we need the following: 1) Close the 1980 jail and add onto the Satellite Jail AND BUILD WITH A REALISTIC EXPECTATION OF FUTURE NEEDS. 2) Have someone on the committee that will make building recommendations to the county board that actually WORKS in the jails. This DOES NOT only include the Sheriff and Jail Administrator, but serving line Correctional Deputies. 3) Stop filling the jail with poor people incarcerated on non-violent charges who simply cannot afford to post bond. 4) Force the cities of Champaign and Urbana to pay their fair share of incarcerating inmates on petty city ordinance violation charges. There are MANY other issues that will continue to fill up the jail that are simply beyond local control. The complete and utter failure of the State to address the needs of the mentally ill and the seeming criminalization of everything imaginable are just 2 of these issues. Like it or not, we HAVE to address these issues and prepare for them.

Local Yocal wrote on March 07, 2012 at 11:03 am
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HOCKEYDAD has it completely right here: "3) Stop filling the jail with poor people incarcerated on non-violent charges who simply cannot afford to post bond. 4) Force the cities of Champaign and Urbana to pay their fair share of incarcerating inmates on petty city ordinance violation charges. There are MANY other issues that will continue to fill up the jail that are simply beyond local control. The complete and utter failure of the State to address the needs of the mentally ill and the seeming criminalization of everything imaginable are just 2 of these issues. Like it or not, we HAVE to address these issues and prepare for them.

The by-their-own-admission-ignorant county board is being hoodwinked by a few sly individuals (with a clear interest in having more jail cells to fill) to bilk the taxpayers out of $20 million dollars-plus to build a maximum security jail expansion. I don't know which construction companies or architectural firms have a gun to law enforcement's head to demand more work and contracts, but the most elegant solution to this problem is CHANGE THE WAY WE ARREST AND PROSECUTE AND SENTENCE for the petty bull that is most of the day to day activities of law enforcement.

District 8 member Tom Betz is lying to the county when he says "a crime always has a victim", or that jailing people is because "there must be consequences for people's actions." Both of those claims to the realities of the county jail are damn lies. An accounting of what the criminal charges are of those currently housed in the county jail clearly shows 25%-40% of the inmates are often there for non-violent, victimless "rule violations." or for putting something in their mouths the nanny government seeks to regulate.

Another damn lie is the State's Attorney's claim: "Only the most dangerous are in our county jail." Were we to only house the most dangerous, the 182-bed Sattellite would be plenty of jail space.

No, this is empire expansion to grow the $40 million-a-year law enforcement beast that demands more of your tax dollars with little positive results to show for the expenditure. More unnecessary jailing equals more poverty and more crime. Period. There are far too many in this county who like it that way: job security.

What the taxpayers want is a reduction in the incidents of crime. That means people are actually held accountable, substance abuse is dealt with, education, job training and job placement actually happens, the mentally ill are hospitalized, and proper legal representation is provided to move these cases along and out of court. Police departments should have oversight and no more of these falsified police reports and overcharged "crimes" should ever see the light of day. Reading the county's own RFP, an interesting statistic is provided: in 2011 8,400 police reports were submitted to the state's attorney's office; but only 4,241 reports were prosecuted. That means 4,159 police reports were not and dismissed into thin air. According to the county's own RFP, almost 50% of the arrests don't mean there is a victim, don't mean there is even a crime, it means NOTHING.

No, it's the way they arrest and prosecute that causes backlog. The County Board is hurling the county budget off the cliff into further debt (already at $55 million in total outstanding debts and stuff to pay off) and this jail expansion project alone is expected to create debt (with the appropriate financing interest charges) until 2029.

No wonder the county board does not want the taxpayers to have any say over this- and will not allow the voters to vote on the $20-$25 million dollar issue, leaving it to 14 mere votes to decide whether or not to saddle your kids and grandkids with a maximum security jail expansion. Better the county build a museum to Alan Strong's antique car collection if they are so damn eager to do more frivilous government building. At least that would actually help the county's residents.

The current satellite jail is sufficient to accomodate this county's violent crime needs.

 

billbtri5 wrote on March 07, 2012 at 1:03 pm

how much is the study going to cost?...why not ask the people who run the jail every day what is needed, it would be free and likely as good or better than what the consultants are offering....

Joe SixPack wrote on March 07, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Local......

Just a question based on my past readings of your posts...and "contributions" on other websites...

Do you agree with ANYTHING that law enforcement does? Or are they all lying, racist, report falsifying, brutal, stupid barbarians in society who take pride in locking innocent people up? 

Local Yocal wrote on March 07, 2012 at 8:03 pm
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Another "contribution": The ideals of the 9-1-1 system is a beautiful idea. Tax me twice for the service. To be able to call any time of day for help and several or more professional officers will be there in minutes to serve and protect you is an amazing and spectacular city service we should want to be proud of.

Unfortunately, a few nutjobs, i.e. some officers, some command staff, some prosecutors, some judges, and some politicians with egos and characters not fit to supervise a dog kennel, have ruined the profession for the majority of hardworking, honest and dedicated officers and lawyers just trying to make the best of a bizarre situation. Police work and sentencing is an impossible job. The profession can not prevent crime in the least, (cause people are going to do what they are going to do- ask Toni Cassano) and politicians will demand to look good on some "moral ground" and pass another stupid law to no good effect, so the expectations of the job are ridiculous. Also, I have complete understanding for honest mistakes, occasional emotional breakdowns, and simply "bad days." As long as officers and lawyers remain honest and admit a mistake, hey, we can all work it out. Mistakes don't have to be a big punitive deal and instead, be a learning moment for the betterment of all. Unfortunately again, few have that emotional maturity so when law enforcement messes up, it tends to cover up.

It's the few nut jobs who seek to make a profit off of crime, fabricate crime and contribute to the crime in this community we should stand against. Hypocrisy, masochistic brutality, and dishonesty have no place in law enforcement and I'm sure you agree. It's been the biggest disappointment that the good officers of the various departments have remained silent to the thuggery and cheating they watch their co-employees, superiors and lawyers perpetrate every month or so. There's been some good tides a-turning lately with the recent Sergeants of 7 outing the cowards Finney and Murphy, and the secret release of the June 5th squad car video, but over the last 15 years there's been way too much complacent complicity on the part of the many fine officers who serve the best they can. What are they afraid of?