Letter to the editor: Better solutions

To the editor:

I was greatly disappointed to learn that our County Commission voted to spend over half a million dollars for further design work on a possible jail expansion. The commission is putting a very expensive cart ($518,000) before an extremely expensive horse (the proposed jail expansion is estimated at $30 million). Although the commissioners reject the notion that their vote was premature, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has not had adequate time to research and seriously discuss alternatives to incarceration.

Here are a few facts that the CJCC should consider: 75 percent of the jail population is there pre-trial. This means that 75 percent of the inmates have been found guilty of no crime. Innocent until proven guilty means little if you can’t afford to post bond. Furthermore, the majority of those incarcerated in the Douglas County Jail are there on pending misdemeanor charges, the majority of which have bonds set at $500 or less. 

We need to find alternatives to incarcerating the unconvicted poor who can’t afford to post bond prior to spending even more money on architectural designs that may very well prove unnecessary. A mere portion of the half a million dollars would be much better spent finding ways to lower the jail population through non-incarceration bond supervision.  If we build it, we will fill it, and we will certainly pay for it!  How much are you willing to pay to keep those charged with lower-level crimes locked up while awaiting their hearing dates? We as a caring community can come up with solutions other than building a bigger jail.