URBANA — Applications will be accepted through March 2 for appointment to a nine-member citizens' advisory committee on county jail and social services issues.
The appointments will be made by Michael Richards, a Champaign Democrat who is deputy chair of the county board's Justice & Social Services Committee.
Richards will serve as chair of the Champaign County Community Justice Task Force that is being formed to advise the county board on issues related to the adequacy of existing court services and whether to remodel the downtown jail or close it and build an addition to the satellite jail in east Urbana.
"There is no sunset date on this. It's possible we'll be working on this for quite a while," he said. "I see this as a pretty long process with at least monthly meetings and perhaps some forums out in the community."
The full board — which voted to create the panel at its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday — is unable to devote adequate time to the issue, Richards said, and the citizens' committee will advise it.
According to a county announcement, the panel will gather information on existing programs and costs to prevent incarceration, reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation for prisoners; will look at additional programs (and their costs) that the county does not use and may bolster existing programs; and provide a report to the county board in October that includes information and suggestions.
"We think there is some level of expertise out in the community with people who would want to serve," Richards said. "The county board certainly recognizes that needs have changed quiet a bit since the downtown jail was built in 1980, that there are other issues. We need to see who's interested."
He suggested members could include those with expertise in mental health and criminal justice issues, and perhaps a current correctional officer, along with a defense attorney, an ex-offender or an advocate for the incarcerated.
"We want to have geographical diversity, racial diversity, a good cross-section of the county," he said.
Applications are available at the Champaign County Board office at 1776 E. Washington St., U, or are online at: http://www.co.champaign.il.us/COUNTYBD/appointments/apptrq2.pdf 
Appointments will be made at the March 13 county board meeting.