Shawnee County will solicit bids to purchase beds for its jail and correctional annex

Shawnee County Jail’s population has never been higher in its 35-year history.

The county will now seek bids to buy more beds to help deal with that.

County Commissioners Aaron Mays and Kevin Cook voted 2-0 on Monday, with Commissioner Bill Riphahn absent, to allow Director of Corrections Brian Cole to solicit bids to buy 40 bunk beds and about five single beds.

The move will allow the prison to house its inmates in a “better and more secure” way, Cole said.

The cost is estimated at $100,000 over the next two years, with the corrections department planning to pay for it with money from its 2022 budget, Cole told commissioners.

The ‘great catch-up’ in court cases is one of the reasons the prison population has increased

Monday’s move comes at a time when the prison’s population level is on a roller coaster.

It reached about 550 inmates two or three years ago, Cole said.

It then plummeted 22% in 11 days in March 2020 as District Attorney Mike Kagay responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking to make bail more affordable for nonviolent inmates.

But the prison’s population has since grown and is now approaching 600, Cole said.

Reasons for this include a “big catch-up” that has taken place recently in the justice system here after a period of relative inactivity, and an increased average length of stay for inmates at the Shawnee County Jail, Cole said.

“Our population is higher now than before COVID, and our admission and length of stays are among the highest of cities our size and larger,” he said.

One of the reasons inmates are staying longer is that the wait time to get into correctional mental health hospitals has increased, Cole said.

After:‘We are at a very critical stage’: 20% of Shawnee County correctional positions are vacant

Additional bunk beds are to be placed in the prison annex

The Shawnee County Commission voted Monday to solicit beds like the ones seen here, located in the County Department of Corrections Annex at 818 SE Adams, to accommodate a growing inmate population.

The beds will primarily house inmates in the Corrections Department’s minimum-security annex at 818 SE Adams, Cole said.

Some will also be used in the 501 SE 8th prison, he said.

Eve Kendall, assistant director of corrections, showed a Capital-Journal reporter and chief photographer on Friday the area of ​​the annex where most beds should go.

Eighteen metal-framed bunk beds are already located in this area, she said.

Cole discussed the proposed purchase in a memorandum to the commissioners, which was part of Monday’s meeting agenda.

When the corrections department completed a recent annex improvement project, budget constraints prevented it from purchasing all the beds needed to maximize dormitory and room occupancy, its memo said.

“The purchase of these beds will allow more inmates to be housed in the annex (and) will provide more flexibility in the accommodation of medium, minimum and community level inmates in our classification system,” he said. he declares.

“Four or five” of the beds purchased by the correctional service will be used to replace broken beds, he told commissioners.

The rest will be housed primarily in dorms in the annex, Cole said.

“You can’t just put people anywhere in a prison”

While the capacity of the Shawnee County jail is 705, Cole said corrections professionals consider a jail “full” when it’s about 85% full.

“It’s because unlike a hotel, you can’t put people anywhere in a jail,” he said.

For the safety of inmates and staff, different inmates should be kept in different locations depending on the level of “classification” assigned to them based on various factors, Cole said.

Some of these factors include their gender, their medical and mental health needs, and their risk of misbehavior.

Tim Hrenchir can be reached at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.

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