Supervisors wise to listen to many jail ideas

Published 11:37 pm Saturday, May 15, 2010

Where some see expense, others see opportunity. That was certainly true last week as the Warren County Board of Supervisors inched toward all-important decisions on where to build a new jail, the design of the facility, how to finance construction costs and operational costs that will likely triple current annual outlays.

Former New York Giants and University of Alabama head football coach Ray Perkins, Curtis Crenshaw, who starred for the Crimson Tide in the early 1960s, and Alabama construction executive Jay Wilson met with the board and pitched a sweet-sounding idea. Apparently, they would front all costs and then recoup their investment and a reasonable profit from payments to house inmates and farming the inmates out to employers at the Ceres industrial park.

Sheriff Martin Pace did everything but turn backflips at the suggestion, pointing out his position that most detainees here have not been tried and convict labor, as the name implies, is only for convicts. “That would mean that you as the board would be asking me to get into the business of housing state inmates — which is not anything we’ve talked about up to this point,” Pace told supervisors.

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There are many, many matters to hash out before decisions are made, and supervisors are to be commended for progress made to date and especially for remaining, as they have, open and transparent in requiring all ideas and suggestions be presented in public.

This stance almost guarantees that when the time comes for hard decisions the public will know all the variables.

Perkins & Co. might be onto something. Aspects of their pitch could be retailored. Nobody can yet say for sure.

An investment of the size and significance the people are about to make has an almost infinite number of variables. Supervisors are smart to listen to everything anyone has to say.