Katy Fitzgerald has been selected as Douglas County’s new criminal justice coordinator, the county announced Thursday.
Her job will focus on justice issues, including facilitating the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
“Fitzgerald comes to Douglas County from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where she has been a management analyst in the Criminal Justice Services Department since January 2014,” according to the county’s news release.
“Prior to joining Criminal Justice Services, Katy’s career began as a community mental health clinician, providing mental health and substance abuse treatment to adults and juveniles across the spectrum of criminal justice involvement, including several years as a clinician in a North Carolina Youth Development Center, and as a care coordinator for the local managed care organization.”
Fitzgerald will start July 29, according to the release. She succeeds Mike Brouwer, who left the county last year for a new opportunity.
“Fitzgerald is most proud of her work on developing an online training series for criminal justice stakeholders, leading the implementation of the Reclaiming Futures model within the local juvenile justice office, piloting a driver license restoration clinic, and leading the revision and implementation of the local bail policy,” according to the release.
Fitzgerald’s work in the past four years has mainly focused on pretrial release, detain decisions and bail policy, according to the release.
Those issues have continued to be problematic for Douglas County over the past few years of criminal justice reform work — for instance, Black people face higher average bonds than white people, and the incarceration rate of Black people in Douglas County is 6.5 times the rate of white people.
Specifically, Matt Cravens, senior data analyst for Douglas County, told the CJCC last month that he thinks “judges would be more equitable if they offered house arrest to Black defendants at a little higher rate.” He also noted that referrals and admissions to and graduations from the county’s behavioral health court program are “very white-heavy,” as only 7% of behavioral health court graduates are Black.
“It is important to me to be part of a team that has the collaboration, the momentum, and the heart for reform and I saw that in Douglas County,” Fitzgerald said in the release. “Once I visited Lawrence and met with some of the staff, I knew this was where I wanted to be. As a college basketball fan and fellow Big 12 alum, coming to the home of the national champions is a plus, too. I’m very excited to start working for Douglas County and to join this community.”
County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said in the release that she’s incredibly excited for Fitzgerald to join the team.
“She has a wealth of experience in criminal justice and behavioral health and will help us continue to lead in these areas. Katy firmly believes that everyone deserves an advocate in their corner,” Plinsky said. “It is this belief that drives her passion for her work with those involved in, impacted by, and partners of, the criminal justice system.”
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Researchers have finished a draft report from a long-running law enforcement contact study, which has confirmed that Black drivers are 2.73 times more likely to get stopped than white drivers in Douglas County, and drivers of color are 1.72 times more likely to be searched.