Kansas City could once again house inmates and detainees in the downtown Jackson County jail after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Sheriff Darryl Forté reached a deal in principle Thursday.
Since June the city has used a patchwork system to house prisoners. Some have gone to two county jails in Missouri and about a hundred have been housed at the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change.
“Our view is that this is in the best interest of public safety in our community,” Lucas said after a meeting at the sheriff's office in Lee's Summit.
Six prisoners have escaped from Heartland and two more have died.
In June the city had to vacate the 275 beds it had at the downtown county jail after the two sides couldn't agree on how much Kansas City would pay per inmate.
The county has said it costs about $110 a day per inmate. Kansas City was paying $50 and was unwilling to pay much more than that so the county canceled the contract.
“It’s contingent on the numbers being right. But I’m confident the numbers will be right,” Forté said.
What the city will pay and how many beds will be available are still up in the air. However, Forté said he can't subsidize the city.
“The mayor understands that we’re not in it to make money but we don’t want to lose money for the citizens of Jackson County,” Forté told KCUR. “We’re going to help the city.”
“We’ll make sure that we have our inmates in a safe facility, one that’s secure and one that can, I think, give the public some peace of mind that those who are in prison and need to be in custody will remain there,” Lucas said.
Both Forté and Lucas said Thursday was their third meeting about the jail including one when Lucas was mayor-elect.
In April, City Manager Troy Schulte told a city council committee he had plans for a $25 million, 400-bed jail somewhere south of the river. He said he had identified three possible sites.
That proposal gathered virtually no support. Lucas, who was then a councilman, said he wouldn't even discuss building a new city jail. Since Lucas was elected mayor, Schulte announced his retirement.
Lucas said that he is heartened by the relationship he has forged with Forté around the jail and that "old grudges" are behind them.