Letter to the editor: Jail vote

To the editor:

The Douglas County Commission likely will hold a special election, probably next spring, wherein the public would be required to simultaneously decide whether to build a mental health facility and also whether to spend $30 million to expand the county jail because of overcrowding.

The Journal-World has published several articles addressing the jail situation:

   [1] Many mentally ill individuals are in jail for lack of appropriate treatment facilities;

   [2] A disproportionate number of black individuals as compared to whites are in jail because of differing treatment by local police;

   [3] A larger number of women are now jailed than were formerly.

   [4]  Furthermore, nationwide studies have shown that many people are jailed because of poverty; they simply cannot afford to post bond.

If commissioners want to advance the public good they should arrange a separate vote on the mental health facility. And instead of spending vast sums enlarging the jail, let’s give the police, the courts and investigator-advisers a chance to improve police-public interactions, to eliminate the criminalization of our poor and to identify and eliminate the reasons for the increased incarceration of women.

By attending to the needs of the mentally ill, minorities, women and the poor we may well reduce the jail population in a humane way, thereby eliminating the need to expand the jail. The jail capacity is already 187; do we really want to jail more of our fellow citizens?