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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A jail in northeastern Kansas is seeing a rising inmate population after a 2014 law that redefined a defendant’s right to a speedy trial from 90 days to 150 days.

The Douglas County sheriff’s office is calling for a $44 million jail expansion to combat the rising the population, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The speedy-trial redefinition is one of multiple reasons why the population has exceeded its 186 beds, said Sheriff Ken McGovern and Undersheriff Gary Bunting. Other factors include an increase in more serious felony crimes that tend to take longer to prosecute and the county’s overall population growth, they said.

Defense attorney Jennifer Roth testified against the then-bill in 2014. She said the redefinition would force defendants awaiting trials and unable to afford bond to spend more time in jail cells. She also said it would increase the costs for Kansas counties as defendants remained in jail.

“I was right,” Roth said. “People shouldn’t sit in jail longer. People who can’t bond out are sitting in jail now twice as long.”

The 2014 bill was written after a review of speedy trial standards in other states, said former Republican Kansas Sen. Jeff King, who wrote the bill. It was also written to address what King was hearing from law enforcement officials and prosecutors. King said he wanted to produce a bill that would move trials along in a quick manner while assuring law enforcement and prosecutors had the time needed to process evidence.

Statistics from the Kansas Judicial Branch show the percentage of felony cases pending for more than a year had grown to nearly 13 percent in fiscal 2017.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World,