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The Jail Alternatives program is saving Johnson County nearly two million dollars

BY DANIEL SEIDL | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Jail Alternatives Program of Johnson County has potentially saved the county nearly $2 million in the last year, according to a report from the program.

One goal of the program is to identify individuals with mental-health problems in the Johnson County criminal-justice system and try to keep them out of jail.

According to the program’s report from fiscal 2013, which was presented at a Thursday meeting of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the program served 240 individuals in fiscal 2013, up from 220 in fiscal 2012.

Jail Alternatives coordinator Jessica Peckover — who presented the report — said the process can help these individuals be integrated back into society.

“The hope is that they become stabilized in the community,” she said. “[We want to help them become] safe and productive community members.”

Based on data, inmates in contact with the program served 48,096 days in jail in the year before they entered the program — in the year after they were assisted, they served only 20,970 days. 

This reduction of more than 27,000 days in jail adds up to more than $1,925,000 in savings, based on the average daily cost of housing an inmate.

Supervisor Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said that the projected savings from the program may be overestimated, because other factors within the county may have lowered these numbers.

However, the program has also saved the county money in other ways. According to the report, the program has prevented law violations, prevented lawsuits, and maintained or increased employment.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan said that if more people knew about the program, they would probably support it.

“There are so many people that have no idea what [the program is] doing,” he said. “If more people knew about [the program], I am firmly convinced … they would be on board.”

Another aspect of the program is to connect individuals in the jail with community organizations that can provide them with help. Peckover said cooperating with these organizations is key to the success of the program.

“We are able to facilitate communication,” Peckover said. “Jail alternatives can’t happen if we aren’t cooperating.”

Some organizations that are cooperating with the program include Johnson County Mental Health and Disability Services and MECCA. These organizations provide health care, counseling, treatment, and other necessary resources.

Rettig agrees with Sullivan, noting that if taxpayers knew their money was being put to good use, they would be more willing to help the program grow.

“We have to sit up here and tax people to do jail alternatives,” Rettig said. “I think people have to recognize that our investments in Jail Alternatives … are paying off.”


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