County creates criminal justice advisory council
The Johnson County Commission unanimously approved last Thursday the creation of Johnson County Criminal Justice Advisory Council was established with the goal of identifying alternatives finding criminal justice alternatives to jail time without compromising public safety.
Creation of the 20-member council caps a yearlong effort by Johnson County Commission Chair Annabeth Surbaugh, who announced her plans to form the Criminal Justice Advisory Council in her 2007 State of the County Address.
The advisory group will serve to promote public safety, to address the root causes of criminal behavior involving all ages of offenders, and to help create a better community.
"We must begin with preventative measures that reduce the number of juvenile offenders in our system. We must also help offenders get back on track while they're in our custody," Surbaugh said.
The goals of the council include:
Study and evaluate the county's criminal justice system;
Oversee the collection of criminal justice data for use by the council and, as required, the county commission or other council officials, agencies, departments, and operating units;
Identify causes for increases in the county's jail populations, analyze the flow of processes in the criminal justice system, especially those directly affecting the county's jail populations, and make recommendation improvements that will directly affect jail population;
Identify gaps or deficiencies in the criminal justice system and recommend ways to eliminate duplication of services and fill service gaps;
Evaluate and recommend crime prevention programs and early intervention and prevention programs or other initiatives/programs that will reduce recidivism; and,
Increase community support for the criminal justice system, strategies for reducing the need for jail beds.
In the past two decades, Johnson County's inmate population has more than tripled while the county's population has only almost doubled. The two county adult jails have been overcrowded for years with daily inmate populations averaging more than 300 offenders beyond the current jail capacity, requiring the cost of daily housing Johnson County inmates in other Kansas jails. The county currently is expanding its jail at the New Century AirCenter with completion scheduled in mid-to-late 2009.