Douglas County Data Analyst Matt Cravens provided a presentation about racial disparities in the local criminal justice system during the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s June 9 meeting, which was held using Zoom.
Cravens was hired in December 2019 to help support the work of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). To meet the group’s challenges, Cravens collected and analyzed data on bookings and length of stay in the Douglas County Correctional Facility.
Cravens found that black, Native American and Hispanic residents of Douglas County are booked into the Douglas County Correctional Facility (DCCF) at disproportionately high rates. The black incarceration rate in the county is about 4.7 times higher than the white rate. This disparity is higher than the national average for jails.
The analysis also revealed that black and Native American inmates in the DCCF stay longer than white inmates, holding other factors constant. A multivariate linear regression model was used to control for other factors. Black inmates stay about 22 percent longer than white inmates on average and Native American inmates stay about 35 percent longer than white inmates on average.
Correlation does not prove causation. This is very important to understand when interpreting these results. However, the degree of association found between race and DCCF time in this analysis was high. The differences in average jail times between black and white inmates, and Native American and white inmates, were statistically significant at conventional levels.
The CJCC and Racial and Ethnic Disparities work group will use these results to establish a baseline that can be used to educate decision-makers and measure progress. The work group, which is led by Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda, plans to provide recommendations on how to make improvements.
During the past year, the work group has been challenged by the complexity of analyzing data on race at various decision points in the criminal justice system. Two variables, criminal history and victim advocacy, cannot be analyzed. Criminal history is the property of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and not available for analysis. Victim advocacy is not recorded in a database. Even if these two variables were available, there is acknowledgement that criminal history is biased by race.
Other agenda items included:
Implicit bias training
A six-hour implicit bias training for all CJCC members was scheduled for Saturday, August 29, with the Summers Advisory Group.
COVID impacts on the jail and criminal justice processing
Last month, key criminal justice stakeholders began meeting to understand how COVID-19 has impacted the DCCF population and to proactively plan for the resumption of court operations. In those discussions, stakeholders learned about long-term impacts on DCCF housing and opportunities to provide criminal justice services.
During the CJCC meeting, a presentation was provided by Criminal Justice Coordinator Mike Brouwer, Data Analyst Matt Cravens, and Captains Wes Houk and Stacy Simmons, of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the Douglas County Correctional Facility is facing a crisis due to a history of over-crowding, COVID-19’s need for observation upon entry, and the likely end to housing people out of county. The Sheriff’s Office is facing very difficult decisions and needs its partners to step up to maintain a safe environment for inmates and staff. Captain Houk said the DCCF needs to maintain a population between 150 and 155 to allow for health and safety.
The Sheriff’s Office and CJCC members will provide the same presentation during a Douglas County Commission work session at 4 p.m. June 10.
The CJCC has decided to meet monthly instead of cancelling its meetings this summer, so they can focus on DCCF housing. The council will meet at 11 a.m. July 14 and August 11.
Challenge from county commission
Douglas County Commission Chair Patrick Kelly encouraged CJCC members and specifically criminal justice stakeholders to seek new ways to reduce DCCF usage. The County Commission does not have the ability to impact the population through decisions to arrest or incarcerate, but the Commission is putting forth the challenge and will support efforts in anyway they can.