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!

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