Letter to the editor: No more silent nights

To the editor:

Watching up close as the saga of the jail expansion unfolds in Douglas County, it feels downright hypocritical to stand in my church with my neighbors’ faces aglow with candlelight and sing “Silent Night.” The song is too pretty. And the story of liberation behind it is haunting when you square it with the fact that we are keeping more people behind bars than any time in the history of our community. The thought of men and women bursting from cages has a way of dampening even the most sentimental mood.

So like Paul Revere riding horseback, let a new warning be heard: “The jail is coming! The jail is coming! The jail is coming!” Tell those who use holidays to write columns about remembering the poor. Tell those who preach from pulpits about a man who forgives us of our sins. Tell those who remind their children of the Pharaoh who was forced to “let my people go.” Tell those elected to serve the people this new year. Tell your neighbor. The jail is coming!

It’s not a resignation. It’s an alarm. Because Lawrence was not the county seat of the “Jail State,” but the “Free State.” It wasn’t founded by plantation owners, but abolitionists. It’s not the place where voters opted for a bigger jail in April. It’s the community who voted it down, even when false threats of steep property taxes and losing mental health treatment and social services were on the line.

While Douglas County staff perform accounting gymnastics to bind us in debt to pay for more cages, I pray there will be no silent night in the near future. Instead, I pray for a loud night filled with hope and renewed determination to put fewer — not more — people behind bars.

Barbara Palmer,



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