At county’s newest jail, there’s ‘room at the inn’
The new Leavenworth County Jail has changed life for its weekenders, those scofflaws serving sentences for non-felony offenses in weekend bites so they can keep their weekday jobs.
Take Inmate X. Sentenced to one year for burglaries, he was used to showing up at the old jail at 6 p.m. on Friday evenings.
"He'd would pull up across the street and he'd wait for the next guy scheduled to check in, and then the next one," said Leavenworth County Sheriff Herb Nye. "As soon as he saw one turned away, he knew we were full and then he'd come over."
But since the new jail opened last month, things have changed.
"His bubble popped the other day," Nye said. "he showed up and we had to let him in the jail."
Which was the point of the county's new jail, which can house about 150 prisoners.
The jail is housed in the $23.4 million Justice Center which opened this year.
Oftentimes, Nye said, the old jail, which could hold 65 inmates, was full and had no room for the weekenders.
That's not to say that when the weekend rolls around, things aren't hectic. But now it's a matter of getting the weekenders processed at the same time that officers are busy with other offenders.
"What is chaos is Friday night," Nye said. "We have 16 to 20 weekenders that are booking themselves in these are people who've been sentenced to serve five or six days in jail so they spend it on weekends. They show up on our door and say let me in."
Wade Schmierer, probation officer for Leavenworth County Community Corrections, said between 10 and 15 offenders need to spend weekends in jail.
When asked if in the past it was difficult to find open jail space for them on weekends, Schmierer laughed, and said, "How about no room at the inn?"
With cell space being an uncertain commodity, the offenders were given weekend jail sentences that didn't specify the date the sentence had to be completed.
As a result, some offenders whose sentences would normally have been served in May or June, are scheduled to complete them by October.
"We left it open and as soon as the new jail became available and we could start to put people in for commitments for that time, we scheduled them," Schmierer said.
Penny Lincoln, director of the county's Community Corrections program, said the program increases time spent scheduling inmates. "but we feel it's worth it, because that way they can keep their jobs," she said.