OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Over $5 million of money from the American Rescue Plan was approved Tuesday by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for use on the Douglas County Correctional Center.
While much of it will go towards paying staff and infrastructure improvements, they’re also funding services that allow judges to give no bail to some people charged with crimes, if they’re low risk and no threat to the public.
“To me, it makes more sense that the community will be safer, if we take individuals who don’t pose an imminent threat, and manage them in the community with services and resources,” said Correction Director Mike Myers.
Myers, who was quick to point out that the county is not ending cash bail, as judges will continue to have that option in addition to the new pretrial supervision program.
“We are simply just providing the judges more choices,” said Myers.
Myers said some offenders are jailed until they’re sentenced, and that they sometimes re-enter society without a job or housing.
“A lot of their life, their assets and their community are going to deteriorate and when released they’re in a much worse place, and probably pose a greater risk to the community,” said Myers.
The move seemed to have broad support with the Douglas County Board. Board member Mike Friend wants data on how the program is working, so if issues occur, they can evaluate that data to see how the program is working.
“The more data the better, and the easier we can get that information out there and disseminate to our constituents, it’s going to make those issues less acute,” said Friend.
Board member Jim Cavanaugh says it’ll help keep the jail from overcrowding, and save money.
“It costs a lot of money to keep people locked up, and if they’re not a danger to the community we can save a lot of money, and helping them become productive citizens,” said Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh expects the program to begin early next year.
There’s still tens of millions of dollars of ARPA money left to spend for the county, and Cavanaugh said they’re going to be looking to help small businesses affected by the pandemic, as well bolstering the county’s mental health services.