Letter to the editor: Jail concerns

To the editor:

I attended the County Commission meeting where $518,000 was approved for further jail expansion architectural designs, and I join Rick Frydman in sharing my concerns. 

I have yet to find a figure projecting the increased operational costs after a $30 million expansion. The projected $30 million appears to only cover the brick and mortar of expanding the jail. At a time when Douglas County is being sued for $1.35 million for the tragic death of a female inmate, it is questionable that our community would be receptive to such a request for funds. 

There is clearly a need to provide appropriate services to inmates suffering from serious mental issues. But a vote in favor of a mental health crisis center should be separate from a vote for jail expansion, rather than including both on the same ballot as the County Commission has decided. 

Furthermore, the public deserves a response to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in the county jail. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s recently released summary findings of the jail population fluctuations waited until the conclusion to mention this issue, only to say that more study needs to be conducted. 

As a retired school psychologist, I understand the importance of trained personnel who demonstrate proficiency in handling sensitive populations. Providing indigent citizens with proper staff support and resources so that attendance at court hearings can be better guaranteed would help reduce the significant number of bookings for “failure to appear.”