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During the March 6 meeting, the Champaign County Board was to vote for a Request For Professional Services (known as an RFP)
seeking an architectural firm to assess the county's jail space needs. The RFP, describing what the County was seeking, was written by Sheriff Dan Walsh and other members of the Jail Space Improvement Project Planning Team. The Team is headed by the Sheriff, jail corrections director Lt. Robert Cravens, State's Attorney Julia Rietz, Court Services Director Joe Gordon, Presiding Judge Tom Difanis, County Facilities Director Alan Reinhart, Republican County Board member John Jay, Chairman of the Facilities Committee board member Tom Betz, and County Administrator Deb Busey. Several of these individuals have already expressed their desire to support the Sheriff's plans to build a new jail expected to cost some $20 million. The county board was not allowed to vote on who would be on this team. Yet it is this team that will decide which architectural firm will be "short-listed," and which architectural firm has the best recommendations regarding the county's jail space needs.
District 5 board member, Carol Ammons, District 6 board member Michael Richards, and District 8 board member Astrid Berkson all made several motions to amend the Project Planning Team to include more members of the County Board or members of the Justice and Social Service Committee. None of these motions carried. Late in the evening, Board member Ammons made a final motion to "add one additional county board member to the Jail Planning Team from one of the districts that are the minority districts of color." Board member Berkson agreed and said, "All the people on the committee now are from the other side, the jail keepers, and half the jail is [filled] by people of color. I think there ought to be somebody of color on this committee." [Indeed, jail statistics show minorities make up at approximately 60% of the county jail inmate population.] Board member Richards concurred, and said, "maybe we should think about getting somebody on there of color who is not a prosecutor-slash- sheriff, something like that. Somebody from, like Astrid said, from the other side at least." At this point, State's Attorney Julia Rietz interrupted the meeting over board member Ammons' call to order, and Rietz stated that she did not believe a "token person of color" was needed on the County Board's jail planning team.