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New jail shouldn’t be financed by property taxes alone

There has been much written and said recently about the need for a new jail in Lake County. Current Sheriff Don Bell requested a visit to our facility by a National Institute of Corrections team last November to identify the current state of the jail and what future needs might be. The results of the study could’ve been predicted beforehand; our jail is old and inadequate and a new facility is needed. The Commissioners are well aware of the state of our jail and the lack of beds is not a new problem. Sheriff Bell is not the first Lake County Sheriff to have to deal with a less than adequate jail. Several previous sheriffs have had to release lawbreakers who they felt should be in jail due to a lack of beds. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not to build a new jail will be made by the County Commissioners. The Commissioners will need to find a method for funding construction as well as paying for the additional costs that will come from housing more prisoners. Doubling the present number of beds from 50 to 100 would double the amount spent each year on doctor calls, medications, mental health assessments, ambulance calls, and inmate health insurance premiums that are paid with taxpayer dollars. During the first half of this fiscal year those costs were just over $165,000. Going beyond 100 beds, as some have suggested as necessary, would increase the operating costs even more. As a member of the Board of Commissioners I feel I should share my position concerning the potential construction of a new detention facility. My thoughts are summarized in the list below.

I will not support any proposal that puts the entire cost of a new facility on property tax payers. There must be other partners who are willing to make significant contributions to help pay construction and operating costs. I have served as Commissioner for five years and have yet to hear any idea for funding other than a property tax levy.

There needs to be resolution to the question of whether or not CSKT stays in Public Law 280. If there is some level of withdrawal from the agreement by CSKT, the number of beds any new facility might require will change significantly.

There needs to be a treatment component for substance abuse to any new facility plan. Locking people up in hopes that it will cure their substance abuse hasn’t worked in the past and there is no hope that it will work in the future. A majority of our inmates, or those waiting to do jail time, have been convicted and sentenced for drug-related crimes.

I do not support putting the construction of a new facility to the voters and letting the people decide at the ballot box. Many voters who would vote in favor of a new jail do not pay property taxes. Allowing non-property tax payers to put the cost of financing a jail on the backs of property tax payers cannot be allowed to happen.

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