The antiquated jail atop Kansas City police headquarters — it’s “a lawsuit waiting to happen,” one councilman said Thursday — will close next spring or summer thanks to a tentative agreement with Jackson County.
Envisioned three decades ago and discussed off and on for the past six years, the deal will see the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center detaining the people who now are placed in the city jail, which holds up to 100 people at any one time.
Most are either waiting to be released on bail or to be arraigned before being transferred to a longer-term detention facility. Often that’s the Regional Correctional Center, just two blocks from police headquarters at 305 W. 13th St.
The consolidation, which the City Council approved Thursday, will save tax money and put more police officers on the street, officials said.
Outfitting the county correctional center to handle additional detainees will cost the city $969,000 up front. But the arrangement will save taxpayers the $5 million to $7 million it was going to take to renovate the detention center on the eighth floor of police headquarters, city officials say.
That space has not been updated since the jail opened at the close of the Pendergast era and will be mothballed until another use can be found.
Some of the needed fixes would have brought the jail into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That was also one goal of the $40 million redo on the seven other floors of headquarters, which was opened in 1938 and rededicated Thursday afternoon.
At a City Council business session earlier in the day, Councilman John Sharp said it was only a matter of time before someone sued over the jail’s outdated conditions.
Councilwoman Jan Marcason said the deal with the county produced “a very, very positive outcome.” Not only will taxpayers save on remodeling costs, but the annual price of housing inmates will be less.
This year, the city and Police Department are budgeted to spend $5.5 million housing inmates. That includes the cost of holding temporary detainees at police headquarters, as well as prisoners who have been bound over for trial or who are serving out their sentences in the county-run correctional center.
Since the city closed its municipal jail near the Truman Sports Complex in 2009, the county has been providing space for up to 175 men and women awaiting trial or serving their sentences.
Under that agreement, it costs the city $63 a day for each inmate. The new contract cuts the rate to $52.50 for all inmates in the first year of a 10-year contract. Adjustments for inflation will follow.
“This collaboration is a wonderful example of government agencies working together to increase efficiency,” Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said in a statement.
Closing the police detention center also will put more officers on the street, Police Chief Darryl Forté said.
Rather than police hauling everyone they arrest downtown, they will be able to process people facing minor offenses at the satellite patrol divisions, which have holding areas that haven’t been staffed because of budget cuts.
Employees who now run the jail at headquarters will handle those duties next year, said police spokesman Capt. Tye Grant.
Marcason said the consolidation also will be advantageous to people who get arrested. At the Jackson County Regional Correctional Center, they will have quicker access to social services, and those there on minor offenses will be able to bond out quicker.
The Jackson County Legislature and Board of Police Commissioners are expected to approve the agreement in coming weeks.
It’s been a long time coming, said Mike Schumacher, assistant to the city manager. The correctional center was built 30 years ago with space set aside with this very partnership in mind.