Sheriff addresses overcrowding at jail

LYNDON—Laurie Dunn, Osage County sheriff, discussed issues related to the Osage County Jail during the regular meeting of the Osage County Commissioner Monday morning.

“My jail is extremely overcrowded,” Dunn said. “I’m housing in three or four different facilities. And they’re all ours.”

For the past six month, the county has been averaging more than 30 inmates, maxing out facilities and often requiring housing inmates in neighboring counties, according to Jerry Nitcher, jail sergeant.

“We’re a 31-bed facility,” Dunn said. “We’ve been at 30 or 31 for some time.”

Dunn said the cost to house inmates is between $40 and $50 for adults, and between $140 and $160 per day for juveniles.

“We have that going on right now,” Dunn said. “I’ve got them in Jackson, Lyon and Coffey counties. I’ve got one civil case that’s been in Shawnee County.”

Dunn informed commissioners the county would soon see bills for housing the excess inmates.

“Is it because you’re making more arrests, or because the system’s slow dealing with them?” asked Gaylord Anderson, county chairman.

Dunn said the issue was a combination of both, along with a reduction in individuals being sent to state prisons.

“I’m hoping we do a good job catching more people,” Dunn said. “The prisons are overcrowded and people doing more county time.”

“It’s like everything else with the state,” said Ken Kuykendall, county commissioner. “Unfunded mandates, and they want the counties to do everything the state used to do, and they don’t want us to raise taxes to do it.”

Commissioners toured the facility at the end of their meeting. The building was completed in the early 80s, and undergone several reconfigurations over the past three decades to increase population from its original 20-inmate capacity.

“Is the day coming to look at another facility?” Kuykendall asked.

Dunn said the county would likely need to look at something else down the road. Kuykendall asked how large a facility the county would need.

“We started at 21 beds,” Dunn said. “We were holding a lot of out of county prisoners. Then we added four more beds. When (the sheriff’s office) moved up to the other building, we put six more beds in.”

Dunn said a larger facility could be paid for in-part by housing out of county inmates. She also discussed other issues related to the jail, including phone system incompatibilities, and anticipated loss of medical care for inmates due to the Dec. 31 planned closing of the Lyndon Cotton O’Neil Clinic.

“It’s the only facility that will see my inmates,” Dunn said. “I’ve got a 31-bed facility and I need a doctor.”

Dunn said she is talking with clinics for other possibilities, as well as looking into contracting medical services through Correct Care Solutions.

“I don’t keep wanting to drive places to have inmates taken care of,” Dunn said.

During Monday’s meeting, Dunn also informed commissioners she was pursuing changes in the laws regarding due process of inmates in civil cases.

“I have three inmates that are civil cases that are waiting to be determined,” Dunn said. “One has been in my facility over three years.”

Dunn said she has been working with state agencies to achieve speedier trials.

“It’s not fair to an inmate to be sitting in jail for a year,” Dunn said. “It’s not fair to the taxpayers to pay this money.”

Dunn said she was committed to changing legislation related to the issue.

“Everyone has a right to due process,” Dunn said. “I’m going to stir it up.”

In other business, the commissioners:

• heard from Glen Tyson, road and bridge supervisor, about a recent presentation on wind farms he attended at a conference.

“It sure sounds like there’s lots of ducks that need in a row before we get to far into this,” Tyson said.

Tyson suggested working with Coffey County to be better prepared for the permitting process.

Tyson also noted an issue relating to wireless towers being placed near the road on utility easements.

• discussed a need for additional office space at the Osage County Senior Center, including possible options involving the center’s contract with COF services, Inc.

“They have two administrative officials using them,” said Stephanie Watson, senior center director. “I want you to be aware that I’m going to engage in a conversation with them.”

Watson also requested $1,000 for assistance with a KDOT grant and pest control for the building.

• denied a second one-year extension request for a neighborhood revitalization application at 27621 S. Davis.

• heard a sheriff’s vehicle hit on Aug. 8 was still awaiting repairs.

• accepted the resignation of Brian Trego, road and bridge department.

• approve Craig’s Tree Service remove an ash tree hanging over the jail for $600.

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