To the editor:
Yes, the Journal-World is right. We do need to spend some money to update the county jail. We spend thousands of dollars sending prisoners to other counties, which means they are farther away from families that can help them re-integrate. There are more women in jail. We are more aware of the needs of mentally ill inmates — and there are fewer places to send them for treatment. The standards for safety under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) are new since the facility was built and call for better classification.
But how much of what sort of changes do we need? Seventeen years ago, I don’t think anyone thought such a dramatic increase would be needed in 2017. How much space do we need? Is the size based on the expected population growth of the county, the number of people at risk or some other factors?
And are we spending the dollars as wisely as possible? Of course, we have no choice about laws that require incarceration. Still, we can use alternatives to incarceration whenever practical. We can also look for efficiencies in processing prisoners.
Let us do what we can to avoid needing to double the size of the facility in another 17 years.