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!

August 16, 2008

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!

January 10, 2008

Smith County Jail Bond Goes Down In Flames…Again!

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…

Originally posted 11/6/07 (After the last jail bond voters revolt)

This posting occurred after the defeat of the jail bond in the November 2007 election. It highlights some of the reasons voters turned the bond down, and like most of the other posts you will find here, on this issue, makes a call for Smith county officials to look at the real reasons behind the bonds defeat, and make other adjustments before adding a new tax burden on the people of Smith county.

This article also received a response from Judge Carole Clark on the subject of child support. Her comments will be included in a new post very soon.

Smith County Jail Bond Goes Down In Flames Again, or When Will They Ever Learn?

Smith county residents once again showed amazingly uncommon common sense, and said no to the latest jail proposal. Guys, it is not just the tax issue! It has a lot to do with the fact that residents feel, and justly so, that it is not so much the jail that needs to be revamped, but the entire way that justice is miss-handled in this county!( All the arguments are explored elsewhere on this blog.)

The system would not need a place to stockpile increasing numbers of human bodies, if it would, process the people coming in more quickly, and offer something other than jail for non violent offenders. The state is part of the problem. Jailing child support offenders is the least sensible thing I have ever heard of. I know that something has to be done to encourage the payment of child support, but no one has ever been able to explain to me just how locking them up is benefiting anyone!

Marijuana use, may be a crime. (someone needs to explain that to a lot of lawyers, doctors and other well placed citizens of the county) but is not the same as violent crime. It makes people goofy, and sometimes just plain fat and comatose, but it’s users are rarely the rapists and murderers that we all want to lock away. If you took these “hardened criminals” out of the equation, there would be a lot more open beds.

There is an overall sense in Smith County that the gulag could swallow anyone at any time, and that makes everyone a little nervous, in a county that arrests about double the number of it’s citizens of the state average, in a state that arrests about 40 percent more than the national average, and the numbers of citizens on probation is so insanely high that it should make you worry! I have said before, that if they haven’t arrested you yet, they just haven’t gotten around to it!

The way the system works, almost assures indictment, and either a guilty plea or conviction. Sure, it is jurors who send people to jail or prison for long periods of time, but when the stats are as skewed as they are here, something is wrong!

Revamp the way the system works, and you might just get your jail! Otherwise, you can just keep tilting at windmills.

As a post script, let me say, that the next event that I suspect will occur, is the contriving of some jail related disaster to show people how wrong they are, and to buy sympathy for a jail project. Like: “See, we told you so!”…

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