VOTE “NO” ON THE JAIL
I am voting ‘No’ due to a lack of transparency and a firm plan. Giving county officials a $35 plus million check (plus operating expenses and proposed programs) for a project they have not yet fully budgeted nor explained seems irresponsible. This jail will be with us for 50 plus years; it is important we plan appropriately.
Most agree the current jail is functionally obsolete, but this is the single focus of the Sheriff’s Department when selling voters on the deal. They provide little data as to the future cost of the new facility and attack those bold enough to question the sheriff’s recommendations.
Jails are mainly for holding those awaiting hearing or trial, and as a place for those from our community serving a sentence of less than one year while keeping close to family. At a projected cost of $35 million ($156,567 per cell), we should not subsidize communities outside Shiawassee County by offering cells at $35 per night.
The Sheriff’s Department reports raise many questions and contradictions. While the county holds up the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) report supporting a new jail, they ignore most everything else the report offers. The DOC says we have 165 beds; the sheriff says we have 132. The DOC says the jail is understaffed; the sheriff says staffing for the new jail (144 percent larger and 69 percent more beds) will remain the same through 2038. The DOC reviewed the old jail, but the sheriff has not yet asked the DOC to review plans for the new one.
We need to further consider the recommended 220 beds, the projected need in 50 to 70 years. We also need to know the projected utility and maintenance costs for the much larger facility. Investigating these issues and others will shepherd the community toward a jail better fitting this community.
This is not just about cost, this is about what our community needs for our judicial system to operate. If this were just about dollars, at $35 per night we would send our prisoners to other communities for the bargain price of $1.65 million a year (based on the average daily population of 129), far less than the $2.9 million estimated to be collected in the first year of the millage. The people of this county deserve a comprehensive plan that can survive scrutiny. It is time to vote ‘No’ and create one.
Brian True, Corunna