To the editor:
I attended one of the recent tours of the county jail. I learned that Sheriff’s Office employees are working hard not only to oversee the inmates placed in their supervision, but also to keep as many as possible out of jail and to address problems that led to their confinement. However, limitations placed on them by overcrowding were obvious: The safety of the officers is compromised, resulting in an increase of calls for assistance; those who administer programs aimed at behavioral or addiction issues are often unable to do so because program rooms have been converted to cells; officers must spend time driving prisoners to distant county jails; the women’s area is so overcrowded that facilities are inferior to those in the men’s areas; prisoners held in other counties are not able to participate in the programs aimed at reducing recidivism.
Our county is growing, and with growth comes responsibility to provide additional services of all kinds. Our county jail is no different. We have outgrown our jail and the need to enlarge is urgent. The county is employing effective strategies for nonjail alternatives when public safety allows, but the dramatic increase in felonies limits their use. The majority of prisoners will return to our community, sharing our roads and sitting beside us at restaurants or sports events. It is in all of our interests that they be treated humanely, and that they receive help that can turn them into contributing citizens.