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!

January 10, 2008

Smith County Officials Still Don’t Get it!

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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…

Another local paper article on Smith County Jail overcrowding and officials response to state legislation allowing for the ticketing of some misdemeanors in place of incarceration has come to my attention.

In short, officials just don’t seem to want to alleviate the overcrowding situation, even when handed the solution in writing, and signed by the Governor! The stated issue seems to be that no one has told them how to do it! Surely someone in officialdom, can come up with a method!

If jail overcrowding is the big problem, and it is, then solving a few minor problems to get the solution should be something they are willing to do. Perhaps they are afraid that this might work, and then all the plans for jailzilla would just plain look silly. It might make the public wonder why so much taxpayer money was spent trying to get something that we don’t even need!

Officials in Tyler and Smith county need to wake up! Proposing a new jail plan in May will look ridiculous if the alternatives are not given a chance to work. County commissioners have already ditched the funding for a program put in place by our judges, and now the D.A. has trashed the efforts of our legislators by refusing to even give the new plan a try! If you think the public was hacked off about commissioners giving themselves raises before the last bond fiasco, wait till you see what happens in the next one!

The following is an older post on the same issue. It was regurgitated from the old blog. County officials might do well to ruminate on it.

Posted by ajeffersonian at 12/9/2007
Smith County Officials Still Don’t Get It!
It has once again become apparent that Smith county officials don’t get it! There has been some talk about tweaking the jail proposal for the May 2008 election, possibly offering a “build it in stages” type plan for the voters.

This is becoming a regular event in Smith county, and the poll results get more lopsided each time it is presented, and still the supporters continue down the same road.

What Jailzilla supporters and the media seem to missing, is the fact that it does not matter how far or how fast they travel down this road, or how doggedly and repeatedly they do so, it is still the wrong road. There are a lot of comments from officials. There are a lot of stories quoting the officials, what is lacking is input from the people who actually walk into the voting booths! It smacks of official arrogance!

The people of Smith county will not say yes to any jail until something is done to lower the incarceration rates! The fact that this is not the main issue in the public domain has at least two causes:

1. The media has not made this part of the issue an area of focus.
2. People don’t want to talk about it in public for fear of being branded “liberals” or “bleeding hearts,” or for fear of harassment.

There will have to be some trust built before the public will even be willing to talk about it! Sure, people will talk around the issue, they will talk about ill timed raises, or jail cost, but the real reasons stay hidden under a cloud of distrust.

The big issue then, becomes the issue of trust. Why it is missing, and how to regain it should become the focus. That is the first step. Whether anyone can see this, or will take any positive action on it, is anyones guess.

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