Letter to the editor: Jailing warranted?

To the editor:

Before we accept any expansion of the jail we need to make sure we are filling it with people who need to be incarcerated. Unless someone is dangerous there is no reason to hold them in jail.

One hundred and eighty-six beds means 186 people behind bars. Remember, a jail is no prison and is not meant for punishment. People charged with crimes, under our Constitution, are still innocent. At the town hall meeting at the fairgrounds last summer, after the bond issue failed, the dominant theme was concern that people are jailed for no other reason than they don’t have money to post bond.

The Jan. 2 Journal-World reports county officials want a minimum of 84, and as many as 154, new beds. (At the top end an 83 percent increase.) But I’m not buying it until I see an audit of the jail population that proves that there are typically more than 200 people in Douglas County who pose threats to our safety. Really dangerous people should not be turned loose for the mere several hundred or even several thousand dollars typically set for bonds.

Don’t forget that the cost of the new jail, its staffing and maintenance, are just the tip of the cost iceberg. A greater cost is the lost jobs and the damage suffered each time incarceration prevents a person, parent or spouse, from supporting self and family. But the greatest cost may be the erosion of trust in a system that purely punishes poverty.

William Skepnek,

Lawrence

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