A Jeffersonian In East Texas

August 17, 2008

Smith County Jail The Critical Question

Smith County Schools or Jails | School Bond vs. Jail Bond

Vote Yes For The New Smith County Jail Proposal!

Smith Commissioner Fleming | Well Bless Her Heart…

Sometimes when doing things the same old way for a long time, a solution to a problem seems so obvious that it’s hard to see the forest for the wood. The unfortunate part, is that is rarely the best solution. Such is the case with the Smith county jail issue. I am giving commissioners and others the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe they just don’t understand that there are options other than continually increasing incarceration rates. They may be so caught up in the idea of getting a new jail of some type, that they failed to ask and answer the main question, the most important question of all.

Do we really need a new jail?

As I said, the answer to that question may seem obvious, but it is not. Based on the nature of the offenses which are causing our current jail to be overcrowded, the problem does not seem to be the number of beds, but the snail like pace of the system. There are other factors as well. Child support violators, (after writing on this subject for two years, I still haven’t received a satisfactory answer to that question.) and possession of small, misdemeanor amounts of the dreaded cannabis plant make up a huge number of the cases awaiting trial, and inflating the numbers. This is a far cry from the “murderers and rapists” for which Sheriff Smith needs the increased space. Granted, those violators are there as well, but they make up an infinitesimal part of the population.

The answer to the question posed above is “no”. We do not need a new jail, at least not yet. Solve the other problems first, then let’s talk about an upgrade.

We should also work on learning to maintain a structure of this type, and make plans for future needs in that area. What sort of maintenance staff will be needed, and how will we pay for that increase?

There are hundreds of questions that should be asked before we proceed with such a project, and thus far, none have been answered. Not even the most significant one.

A good place to start would be for the commissioners to ask the judges for their input, and this time, to take it to heart!

A Jail or A Fence For Smith County | Revisited.

Smith County Schools or Jails | School Bond vs. Jail Bond

Vote Yes For The New Smith County Jail Proposal!

Smith Commissioner Fleming | Well Bless Her Heart…

I asked in a former post, whether Smith county needed a new jail, or a fence around the county. I thought it might be time to revisit the idea. Since Smith county incarcerates it’s citizens at a rate 51% higher than the state average, and since we live in a state that incarcerates 44% more of it’s citizens than the national average, which is higher than any totalitarian regime in power today, we are obviously the scum of the earth, and should all be locked away! Add the probation figures, and delete the overlaps, and the figures are frightening! Something must be done about, well, about us! We need to be kept from mingling with the population of the civilized world, lest we infect them with our peculiar criminality!

“We are not all criminals!” The statistics seem to tell a different tale! It would seem, that if you have not been incarcerated, or put on probation, you must have been missed, but don’t worry, this over site will soon be corrected! They just haven’t gotten around to you yet. They are trying to build a new jail facility just for locking you away!

  • We either have more criminals, or
  • The Sheriff’s department is better than average at catching and incarcerating criminals, or
  • Something is wrong.

Let me make the extension for you. Something is definitely wrong!

In any case, we don’t need a new jail.

  • If something is wrong, it should be corrected.
  • If the constabulary is that efficient, all crime will soon cease.
  • If we are really that bad, we don’t need a jail, we need a fence!

August 16, 2008

Smith County Commissioners | Can We Trust Them?

Why would people, and why should people not trust the commissioners court to give them the truth about the new jail proposal? Well, for starters, it was done in a clandestine manner. The current proposal, and the last proposal were done without the presence of the “naysayers”, as some on the court have called them in the past. Sure, there was token involvement, under cover of darkness by some who were formerly opposed, but no real naysayers. The naysayers decided to have their say at the poles on the last proposal, and as I said before, it was a big horse laugh right in the face of official arrogance! Seems we haven’t moved very far since then.

You might want to add to this list, the fact that the court in it’s wisdom has constantly, consistently, arrogantly and relentlessly avoided the issue of why jail overcrowding is a problem, and the myriad of ways to deal with it before it gets to incarceration. This is important, because if you do not solve this piece of the puzzle, you will find any new jail overcrowded soon after it’s opening. It would seem to make sense to solve this, and then see what sort of new facility might be needed. In this case, the commissioners court is not the only problem. The district attorney was handed one solution on a silver platter, freshly passed by legislators, and signed by the governor, and has refused to take it seriously.

The newest proposal is precisely what I expected, a “jailzilla lite” with an open end. A few scoops of dirt removed from what will become a bottomless pit for tax dollars and the hundreds of potential inmates working and playing and living and breathing in this county.

I know it is too late to make a long story short, but the short of of is, that people will not, and should not trust the commissioners court, until they wholeheartedly use some of the other methods, and stop trying to hide their plans behind closed doors.

It Is Official: Smith County Annual Jail Bond Circus Proposed

Smith County Schools or Jails | School Bond vs. Jail Bond

Vote Yes For The New Smith County Jail Proposal!

Smith Commissioner Fleming | Well Bless Her Heart…

It Is Official: Smith County Annual Jail Bond Circus Proposed

Once again I am running a bit behind on the news, but I thought I would post this piece here from my Jailhouse Revolt Blog
This entry was posted on 7/30/2008 5:19 PM and is filed under Smith County Jail.

This was from my initial reaction to the fact that yes, they were going to try to do it to us again, without doing anything about the root cause. In answer to Ms. Flemming’s comment on the news: Yes, we are under an order to solve the jail overcrowding, but no, it can not be solved by building more jails! Please see the piece on this site about the arrogance of Smith county commissioners.

I love the work going on with the new blog on the block, the What Part of No…Committee. It’s good to have some company! Keep up the good work, and thanks for the links to this blog! Let’s get in touch.

Anyway, I hope this helps:

High School Football, County Fairs, and now a new annual Autumn event in East Texas: The annual Smith county jail bond proposal! Send in the clowns!

The new proposal, is lower in calories than the last, and county officials are hoping that it will be more palatable than the last two, but I still don’t think that county voters can, or will choke it down.

A quote from Judge Kent seems appropriate here:

“Insanity has been defined as “continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.” Smith County has ignored the needs of the justice system, judges, courts, and citizens and has since 1984 generally addressed jail overcrowding by building more jail bed space. I predict this new jail construction plan will cost millions of dollars, if approved by the voters, and once constructed the new jail will be overcrowded the first day it is opened. Sounds crazy to me.”

I thought it might be time to recap some of the facts:

Facts About the Smith County jail:

  • The Smith county jail is overcrowded. That is one we all agree on. This breaks down when we get to the reasons why. When more people are being incarcerated here per capita than in any modern totalitarian regime, there is a much bigger problem!
  • The reason for overcrowding is that there are people there who don’t belong there. The courts and judges have made attempts to correct at least some of this, but the commissioners court has not been supportive of their efforts.
  • The cost to outsource housing of inmates is $5.00 per day over what it would cost to house them in the Smith county jail. This is a fact that was disguised in the past when we were told that the extra cost was $40.00.
  • The cost of housing them in a new Smith county facility will rise enormously if one is built. The annual increase will be millions!
  • The cost of upkeep for such a facility would be more than the present cost, and new personnel would be needed. Further straining the taxpayers. Again, millions!
  • The majority of residents in Smith county do not want a new jail, as evidenced by the landslide defeat of the last proposal.
  • Residents of Smith county will not vote for a new jail until they see evidence that alternative plans are being put into place wholeheartedly.
  • Several viable options are available for lowering the jail population. One even signed by the Governor. These have been regularly and summarily rejected by the commissioners court, with no valid reasons why.
  • Smith county officials are not taking full advantage of these options. In some cases, they are not trying to use the options at all.
  • Smith county residents do not even want to see a new bond election on this issue, not even a scaled down “jailhouse lite” version, until the other options are given a real chance to work!
  • Smith county residents would like to have input in the process, above the level that has been allowed thus far.

Knowing these facts, Smith county commissioners should halt all efforts to propose a new bond in November, and should use their energies to work on the alternatives. We know however, that they will plow forward with their efforts, and that will waste even more of the taxpayers money and time. Oh, by the way, that’s us!

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