Wednesday, July 12, 2006

County still needs a new jail

Guest opinion by Len Harlig


Len Harlig, a resident of Blaine County north of Ketchum, is a former member of the Blaine County Commission.

The entire Blaine County community owes thanks to Kate Rosekrans and Fritz Haemmerle for their successful challenge to the proposed scheme to fund a new jail without going through the constitutionally required voter approval process. Appreciation should also be given to 5th District Judge Barry Wood for upholding the language and intent of the Idaho Constitution.

However, now that the constitutional method-of-funding issue has been reconfirmed by the court, the absolute and critical need for a new jail still needs to be met. Blaine County needs a new, safe, modern, adequately sized jail:

· To handle its present inmate population.

· To ensure the safety of its law enforcement personnel.

· To provide enough space for future inmates as the county grows in population.

Three times in the 1990s, the voters of Blaine County mistakenly turned down a jail bond that would have enabled the county to build a new jail at a fraction of the cost of a new jail today. Jails aren't warm and fuzzy "hug-a-teddy-bear" facilities, but neither are landfills and gravel pits. We are intelligent enough to understand the need for landfills and gravel pits, even if we don't like them anywhere near us. We must also understand the need for a new jail, even if we wish we didn't need one. Jails aren't motels for criminals. Jails are confinement facilities to protect the community from criminals who can't be trusted to respect the law or the community's residents and property.

When the county places a legitimate jail bond vote before the electorate, I will want to help educate my fellow residents about the need for a new jail, and I will vote for the bond to build it, as should every responsible citizen in Blaine County. Let's not continue making the same mistake we made in past jail bond elections. The jail problem and the need for a new facility don't go away just because we wish the problem didn't exist.




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