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Just a Thought - Jail expansion in new hands

The jail expansion project is back to the drawing board – design and funding. This is what happens when elected officials stall on implementing what is a must-needed expansion.

I’ve received some slack from my column two weeks ago urging jail expansion. One person said I need to rethink my stance. When I rejected the suggestion, he said the focus needs to be alternative sentencing and not incarceration. Ankle bracelets were suggested.

How the program works: an electronic device is tethered around the ankle. They are designed to be tamper-resistant and must be worn at all times. The device uses a radio frequency signal to communicate back to a monitoring station. If the person leaves a certain area, GPS monitoring functions are supposed to alert the monitoring station.

Warren County commissioners approved ankle bracelets to monitor non-violent misdemeanor offenders in 2015 and designated funding to begin the program. At that time, the inmate population was in excess of 300. Today, the inmate population at the jail is in excess of 300. Apparently, ankle bracelets alone are not the answer or there’s a flaw somewhere in the system.

My irritation is the thought of people sleeping on a concrete floor with nothing more than a mat. How that doesn’t bother everyone, I’ll never know. I assume it’s a situation of out of sight and out of mind. If you don’t see it, you can pretend it isn’t happening. I have far more compassion than most, obviously. Yes, most of the people in jail have a debt to pay society. I just feel that paying that debt shouldn’t include sleeping on the floor with a mat like an animal.

As I expected, the new members of the Warren County Commission want their own look at the proposed jail expansion and that’s why this project, once again, was pushed into the future. We are back to the drawing board when it comes to project design and funding.

One new commissioner voiced his belief that changing the cells from two-inmates to four-inmates would lower the cost. I don’t know if it would or not. I do know former sheriff Jackie Matheny asked for two-man cells because at this current time he has troublesome inmates and no way to segregate them from others. Maybe Sheriff Tommy Myers sees that need differently or maybe he will also request the need for two-man cells. We shall see.

By the new committee list that was presented by County Executive Jimmy Haley and will likely be approved by the full Warren County Commission on Sept. 17, on the County Corrections Partnership Committee are Steven Helton, chair, Carl D. Bouldin, Steve Glenn, Scott Rubley, and Joseph Stotts.

So, there are three new members of that committee who’ll have a front-row seat to the issues out there. Hopefully, when they finally see that something needs to be done, they do it. Don’t kick that can down the road again. The can is dented beyond belief and has been kicked enough.

Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.