By Amy Harwath/CU-CitizenAccess.org — On Wednesday, April 17 the group Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a public hearing with jail consultant Alan Kalmanoff to air their concerns and ask questions about his ongoing evaluation of the Champaign County jail.
Over 70 people were in attendance, from local community members to graduate student members of the Planners Network to county officials and board members including Champaign County Administrator Deb Busey and Sheriff Dan Walsh.
The hearing was originally scheduled for the beginning of the month but was postponed because Kalmanoff has been ill. He joined in the conversation remotely via audio and video from his home in Berkeley, Calif.
Most questions were about racial and gender disparities in the jail as well as who should provide medical and mental health care for inmates.
“There’s probably going to have to be some construction,” Kalmanoff said, at least for medical and mental health units and for separation.
“I’m more inclined to get rid of the old jail and get pods for the satellite jail,” he said. Kalmanoff has worked with over 400 counties to improve their criminal justice systems.
He raised the possibility of closing the downtown jail and selling it for commercial space so that the money could be put toward community programs.
Kalmanoff will share his findings and recommendations when he presents the draft of his report to the County Board on April 30 at 6 p.m. at the Brookens Administrative Center.
After presenting the draft, he will have a week to discuss the options and recommendations with county officials and the public before writing his final report, which will be a script of implementation.
In a follow up interview, Kalmanoff said he was pleased with how the public hearing went.
“The report’s going to yield change, no doubt, of some kind, and quite a bit. And it needs to be widely understood and gradually developed into the thinking of the community so people can envision what’s coming and participate in it,” he said.
At the beginning of the hearing, former county board member Carol Ammons, who is also part of the group Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, acknowledged that the $20 million figure to build a new jail that the group has used as it fought against the construction for the past two years was a loose estimate and not a solid number. County officials have been saying it was an estimate after the group obtained the number from county official emails via the Freedom of Information Act.
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