Jail The need is still great

Published 12:02 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

Warren County needs a new jail. The facility on Grove and Cherry streets is too old, too crowded, has lost state certification and is unsafe to jailers and inmates alike.

The most ardent proponent of the building of a new facility — District 1 Supervisor David McDonald — lost his re-election bid in a runoff on Tuesday. Republican challenger John Arnold captured 55 percent of the vote in a party primary runoff, defeating McDonald 866 votes to 698 votes.

Arnold, in answers provided before the Republican primary elections on Aug. 2, said many county residents are not in favor of a new jail. Arnold said, “The taxpayers’ major concern is the idea of raising taxes to build and support this facility. I don’t feel the building, operating and maintenance of the new jail should be a burden to the taxpayers of Warren County in the years to come.”

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While the talk of raising taxes always causes anxiety, especially in lean economic times, the decision to do so should be weighed against the better good of the community. A new jail is one such consideration.

The jail was built in 1906 and renovated in the 1970s. It can house up to 128 inmates and usually is at capacity with pre-trial detainees. City prisoners often are jailed at the Issaquena County Correctional Facility, increasing costs to cover housing and transportation.

Arnold continued, “It is my belief that our county and city leaders need to draft a comprehensive plan that does not include raising taxes.”

We believe a plan already exists. For the past nearly three years, supervisors have been working on plans. We hope that work, that effort and certainly considerable expense have not gone for naught. We do not need to erase efforts put forth and start anew.

Residents’ views on a costly project such as a jail will run the gamut. Many will see the dire need for a modern facility, while others will continue to say the century-old facility currently in use is adequate. Enough bandages can be applied to the current jail to keep it operational, but how long can we keep providing triage when surgery is desperately needed?