[Source: “Think about the 92 and vote ‘yes’,” Press Citizen, 25 April 2013]
I know and respect many of those opposing the proposed county justice center; however, what I find most puzzling are their twin claims that keeping an old, poorly ventilated, small and cramped jail will enhance the well-being of inmates and limit excessive incarceration.
I have represented criminal defendants for 13 years and also have prosecuted civil rights actions against county jails and state correctional facilities. In all of that time, I have not observed anything to remotely support these twin contentions.
- First, let’s start with their claim that increasing the jail beds will increase arrests and lengthen jail sentences. During my 13 years, I have not heard a prosecutor or judge cite jail bed availability as reason to offering or imposing sentence.
- Secondly, what about the 92 (the current bed limit) unlucky souls who will needlessly suffer in the cramped, dangerous and unsanitary conditions? I have personally witnessed several clients “balloon-up” gaining more than 50 pounds because of inadequate exercise.
Mothers have cried knowing their son or daughter may have to serve jail sentences along with hardened felons because of inadequate jail space. Some have feared sexual assault because of the cramped and inadequate conditions.
The jail now is dingy, the air is stale and I can hardly stand spending one hour there. A new, larger and modern facility will substantially address all of those concerns. But, most painfully, rather than addressing these pressing issues, justice center opponents seem more concerned about establishing their hipster bona fides than improving jail conditions.
I will vote my conscience, and vote yes!