News Local/State

County Board Grants Delay, More Funds To Jail Report


The Champaign County Board has committed more money and time to a consultant before a report is unveiled on the future of local jail facilities.

After narrowly passing in its first vote, board members Thursday decided without debate, and by voice vote - to commit another $25,000 to a report by a California-based consultant.  

The final study will cost $145,000.  Postponing the release from last month to September means including input from the county’s community justice task force. That panel will present its report to a county board study session Tuesday night. 

Task force member and county board Democrat Michael Richards said rather than simply focusing on jail facilities, this looks at smarter ways of running the criminal justice system. 

He said that includes mental health, and ways for keeping people out of jail in the first place.

"There are people who are no risk to the public, and no risk for flight who are in the jail because they can’t meet the cash bail – or for other reasons who don’t need to be in there," he said. "So we’re looking at a lot of programs and a lot of smart things the that the current jail could be using to reduce the population in the jail, and save taxpayers money.”
Richards said the task force report includes the advice of a criminologist and mental health professionals. 

While last week’s vote was largely along party lines, with support from Democrats – Richards said many Republicans backed the plan in Thursday night's voice vote.

He said the task force has been meeting weekly on its own, addressing a lot of problems seen at other county jails around the state.   

Tuesday’s Champaign County Board study session starts at 6 p.m. at the Brookens Center.