The City Really Needs A Detention Center



Kansas City CALL Newspaper Inc


Kansas City officials have danced around the fact that they must build a municipal detention and rehabilitation center. There are no ifs or buts about it. Currently individuals held by the Kansas City Municipal Court are housed in the Vernon and Johnson County jails. It is a 90-minute drive to transport those inmates, one-way, to Vernon County and to transport inmates, one-way, to Johnson County is a 60-minute drive. The travel time creates not only a burden for staff to drive that far round trip, but also family and friends of the inmates. Family and community ties are essential when it comes to the successful rehabilitation of a person who may have made some bad choices. There have been several families and even inmates who have shared horror stories concerning the treatment of inmates and conditions of both of those facilities. One inmate told THE CALL several months ago that the facility he was in was, "a lawsuit waiting to happen." He and others have spoken out about safety issues and sanitation issues at the various facilities. However, the most important aspect has to center around addressing behavior and choices that led them to municipal court and detention in the first place. Although no one wants to truly admit it publicly, Kansas City has become an extremely violent city due to the fact that the "powers that be" have invested in buildings and other glitzy items instead of investing in people. Gone are the days of sitting on your front porch waving at your neighbors as they drive by while you watch you kids ride their bikes or play in the streets. So the decades of neglect have finally caught up with us all. So we must have detention facilities to identify mental health issues and possibly curb violent behavior in our community. According to several Kansas City Municipal court judges, "Detention facilities are used by courts to ensure that defendants participate in the criminal justice process which includes rehabilitation." For the majority of municipal court cases, no purpose is served by detention. However, there remains a substantial number of cases involving violence, threats of violence, property destruction, theft, and trespass that present problems that are best addressed by the appropriate use of a detention and rehabilitation facility. Many offenders for example could connect with local social service agencies while they are going through rehabilitation programs. Among offenders, those with mental health illness and/or substance abuse disorders are much more likely to re-offend, because they avoid treatment, fail to follow court orders and miss court dates. This creates other issues and problems within the court system because municipal judges keep seeing the same offenders for the same issue over and over again. In essence, backing up the system seeing the same people for the same things. Most defendants in the municipal jail population have mental illness and/or substance use disorders. To deal with this reality, Kansas City has developed a robust and nationally recognized array of treatment courts, including Veteran’s Treatment court, Mental Health court, Drug court, Domestic Violence Compliance docket and Domestic Violence Drug court. Defendant participation in a specialty court is a voluntary process which could lead to a probation violation and warrants for their arrest failure to appear in court. For those with mental illness and/or substance abuse intoxication, detention centers provides a period of time for stabilization before court appearance. Have you ever been in Municipal court when the judge is trying to communicate with a drunk person or one really high on drugs? Those can be timely and very frustrating exchanges to watch. In addition, defendants that are not stabilized may be a risk to public safety. The existence of a detention facility may serve as the first good reason that comes to mind for defendants to show up in court and comply with court orders. But the higher purpose of this facility is to address the underlying issues that are obstacles in the path toward rehabilitation and that is what is needed for all of our sakes.