KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mayor Quinton Lucas says Kansas City will build its own jail instead of partnering with Jackson County on a facility.
It’s an issue that’s been dragging for multiple years as Jackson County aims to solve overcrowding at its deteriorating facilities and Kansas City looks for somewhere to house detainees.
Kansas City closed its own jail near the Truman Sports Complex in 2009, and for 10 years, city detainees stayed at the Regional Correctional Center, a building next to the Jackson County Detention Center.
But the city’s agreement with Jackson County to house detainees ended in 2019, and since then Kansas City has been leaning on rural counties for bed space.
In a letter Wednesday, Lucas said the city recently received the county’s requirements if it wanted to partner on the future jail. The mayor said it would “materially limit the extent of shared facilities, place undetermined financial liability on the city and require city approval” in a matter of days.
Lucas said the county wanted Kansas City to take financial liability for any costs over budget on construction. The agreement would have also required Kansas City to cover the cost of the facility.
“We just got the feel that we weren’t really wanted,” Kansas City Councilman Kevin O’Neill said in an interview with FOX4 Friday.
Before our interview with O’Neill, we talked to Jackson County Republican Legislator Sean Smith.
“I think it’s disappointing for the community,” Smith said Friday.
Smith said the previous legislature and city council should have collaborated more, and he’s glad both groups have come together and the city’s made a decision.
“I think it’s still an option for them to at least co locate in the same geographic area, and it seems like that.. If you can make law enforcement’s job a little bit easier… that’s a win, right?” Smith said.
“We own some of that property over there, so in actuality, we could do that,” O’Neill said in response to Smith’s comments.
Smith told us current county leaders never expected the city to help pay for the jail.
“At least my group of legislators has always assumed we were doing an independent project,” he continued. “We want the city to collaborate with us if they want to co locate, and if they feel like that meets their needs is my view.”
Additionally, the mayor said city and county leaders didn’t agree on what a joint facility would look like.
Lucas said Jackson County wanted most of the facility’s operations to be run separately, divided between the city and county. He argued this would lead to administrative duplicities and increased costs.
Lucas said the city is still committed to constructing a new detention center “expeditiously.”
“We’re looking at maybe the eighth floor over here at the police station,” O’Neill said, referring to where their new jail could be. “We’re looking at maybe in 2026 the annex that they’ll be getting.”
The mayor plans to appoint councilmembers who will then present recommendations for a new city jail. The city hopes to have a plan, including costs and if there will be a vote for funding, by January.
“Right,” O’Neill said when asked if a 1/8th cent sales would have to be created to pay for a city jail. “Yeah, I don’t know how… you know, public safety has been very good to the city. I mean they’ve always passed those that would raise the money.”
Meanwhile, Jackson County broke ground on its new $301 million detention center one year ago.
The new county jail will be located along U.S. 40 Highway near the Blue River where Heart Village Mobile Home Park used to be. The owner of the mobile home park sold the property to the county in July 2021, requiring residents to relocate.
The county’s approved jail design includes 1,000 beds, as well as rooms for programming for those in the jail. O’Neill says the city will only need 200 to 300 beds.
Jackson County estimates the new jail will be finished in fall 2025.