Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 23, 2014

Another View: Pondering the jail problem

County must handle issue responsibly

Our compliments to Vigo County Councilman Mark D. Bird for taking the time and investing the thought and energy into writing his detailed letter to the editor on the topic of the county’s jail, published in this newspaper April 13.

The dialogue is healthy and can help produce the best path forward on the matter. We invite others to offer their views on this vital topic. Vigo County’s citizens can hope that the six other members of the County Council and the three county commissioners are equally as engaged as Bird on the issue.

In his letter, Bird disagreed with our editorial on the need for a new county jail (“New jail is right approach/Let experts study issue to be sure,” published March 31). We favor it. He appears not to.

Bird is more than entitled to disagree, and we welcome his sharing knowledge that he has gained from his position in county government. Still, respectfully, we need to clarify our view relative to points the councilman made in his letter.

In that editorial, we wrote, three-fourths of the way into the piece: “That top goal should be for Vigo County to have the best jail possible, not just one that meets the ACLU maximum capacity.”

Clearly, that statement was in the context of the top goal on the topic of the jail, not that the jail is the top goal of all issues facing the county and its finances, as Bird interprets it to be. Had we meant the jail is the top issue in the county, we would have said so. We didn’t.

And then Bird says we favor making a new jail a “Taj Mahal” - his words. We don’t, not if that means a luxurious, overly decorated, opulent space of large atriums, marble counters and plush rugs. By having the best jail possible, we mean a jail that meets current and future law enforcement, criminal justice and corrections needs that the best brains can devise and that Vigo County can afford. We want a jail that humanely houses prisoners, keeps jailers and visitors safe and protects the public from escapes. Why should we want any aspect of Vigo County not to be the best it can be?

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