KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Local leaders broke ground Wednesday on the new Jackson County Detention Center, a 1,200+ bed facility planned for completion in 2024.

The vision for the up-to-date detention center is to solve issues of overcrowding at current deteriorating facilities.

But the success of Jackson County also highlights the challenges facing nearby Kansas City, Missouri, which has no jail of its own. The Kansas City Police Department has recently intensified their push for one.

At the groundbreaking, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver reflected on his own past jail challenges as mayor of Kansas City, operating the defunct ‘municipal farm’.

“It was awful. It was ugly. It was nasty. You name it,” Cleaver said. “So when I was mayor I was stunned, I was stunned when the city attorney came to me and said ‘You are going to need to pardon some people because we have no room at all for people who in the municipal court are sentenced to serve time.’ Just imagine that,” Cleaver said.

But similar challenges persist.

Kansas City currently has no municipal jail and leans on rural counties for bed space. The city also has no agreement to use Jackson County jail facilities, with Mayor Quinton Lucas explaining to the Board of Police Commissioners that there had been issues.

“To use a casual phrase, I think the blame was placed on Kansas City inmates. At a certain point we were then kicked out which is an interesting policy choice,” Lucas said during the most recent police board meeting.

The result, according to KCPD, is when capacity is full there are more signature bonds – or ‘no money down’ bonds – issued.

Still, there is a chance for future collaboration between the county and city.

“I hope — and I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — I hope with the cooperation of the city on this site regarding a regional facility to help people correct themselves. There’s still that possibility,” Ronald E. Finley, Jackson County Legislator for the 2nd District, said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

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