Blocking a Jail Expansion

Check out the story of our "Jail No" campaign on YouTube here:

After three years of Justice Matters fighting against expanding the Douglas County jail, in September 2020, the Douglas County commission unanimously voted down the measure. This allows our community to focus on alternatives to incarceration and saves $30 million in taxpayer money. Here's how we did it: 

- In early 2018, Douglas County officials decided to connect a proposal that would link an expansion to the Douglas County Jail and the creation of a Behavioral Health Crisis center. Both of these were on a single-question, yes/no ballot. While Justice Matters facilitated the creation of the Behavioral Health Crisis center, we were deeply uncomfortable with voting to incarcerate more of our friends and neighbors. Justice Matters decided to advocate against this measure. 

-In May of 2018, the measure was officially voted down by the Douglas County community. However, immediately after the vote, the commissioners pledged to find other avenues to proceed with the jail project, even though the community had just voted against it. Justice Matters followed through on our commitment to expanding mental health services

-In December of 2018, county leaders announced that their new plan to finance the jail expansion would not need voter approval. Moving through 2019, the proposal continued to develop, and it was announced that the initial cost of the project would cost over $30 million. 

-In January 2020, County commissioners voted to authorize the jail expansion, despite opposition from the community. Justice Matters took legal action, alleging that the Douglas County Commission was illegally blocking a vote on the issue. This delayed the start of construction on the jail expansion. 

-In March of 2020, COVID-19 hit, and contrary to previous claims that it couldn't be done, the jail was nearly emptied overnight without any increased risk to public safety, using the same reforms and alternatives that Justice Matters had been suggesting for years. The jail expansion project was put on hold. Shortly after, a study on the Douglas County Jail showed that even prior to the pandemic, there was no need to expand the jail. 

-In September 2020, Douglas County Commissioners unanimously voted down the same proposal for jail expansion that they had unanimously passed, just months before. 

-Justice Matters continues to advocate for alternatives to incarceration to prevent the jail population from rising again. For more information, check out our Jail Alternatives page.