Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler and his staff deserve credit for squeezing in every last possible cell space in the county’s jail, boosting the inmate population by nearly two dozen at night. But he knows, and so should we all, that it’s not enough.
He also seems to know that building a new 1,000-bed jail is not going to fly anytime soon, not with a price tag of $100 million. The unpleasant reception that idea received in a survey of county residents probably has put it to rest. Nevertheless, Sickler and other county officials should continue their work to come up with a jail plan that will help put some teeth in our criminal laws.
A scaled-down proposal that also offers a realistic option for future expansion could very well do the trick. Residents all over the county are sick and tired of seeing — and reading about — suspects being arrested and promptly released due to jail overcrowding. A little over 300 beds is hardly adequate for a county of this size, and the number of offenders who are released early only to offend again is an insult to the idea of criminal justice.
County Administrator Danny Jordan is probably right that a 1,000-bed jail makes the most sense in the long run. Every bed that is not built now will just cost more when it finally is built. But the tax rate of just over $1 per $1,000 of assessed value likely wouldn’t pass in an election.
Jackson County residents deserve to be safe in their homes. We think they will support that notion if the county can put forward a more modest proposal for a new jail.