See what your money gets you

Marion County Sheriff’s Department is going to have an open house at the new jail from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It will be the first chance for the general public to see the jail, and hopefully for most people it will be the last time they see the inside of it.

When Marion County Commission and a group of volunteers were considering what to do about the existing jail, the Sheriff’s Department opened it up for tours. So few people showed up that offering the tours was a waste of time for everyone involved. I don’t know whether the horrible turnout was because people didn’t care, or because they actively didn’t want to know about the condition of the jail. Apathy about public issues is frustrating but understandable, but willful ignorance is unforgiveable.

This weekend is a chance for you to take a look at what the county has spent $3,000,000 on, not to mention years of discussion and argument about what the county needed and how to pay for it. Sheriff Rob Craft gave me a tour of the new facility Tuesday morning, about an hour before I sat down to write this. Structurally, the jail is virtually done, but there is a lot of moving in left to do before the county can move inmates into the jail or relocate the Sheriff’s Department and 911 services.

I think Marion County got what it needed. The existing jail has a lot of problems, some caused by its age, others by its design, and others by increased numbers of inmates. It isn’t a fit living environment for the inmates, nor is it a fit working environment for jailers, deputies, and dispatchers.

Without a new jail, Marion County soon would have needed to send inmates to jails elsewhere, paying to rent space for the inmates, employees to transport inmates to and from jail, and at least one vehicle, all while having to maintain a functioning jail to keep inmates in until they could be sent elsewhere. The new jail gives Marion County what it needs: a safe, secure, humane environment not just for inmates, but also for the county employees who are responsible for them.

It is up to each person to determine for themselves whether that is worth the taxpayer money the county is spending on it. But you can’t tell the worth of something sight-unseen.

— ADAM STEWART

 

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