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We all share blame for jail crisis

Some county officials may be ready to throw rocks across the street at the Record office for drawing attention to jail overcrowding.

The 1930s jail is designed to hold no more than 11 inmates. Therefore, when we noticed there were 18 inmates on the sheriff’s roster, we wanted to know how the sheriff’s department was handling the overflow.

The purpose of the story was not to place blame. It was to inform the public of this ongoing — and at times more dire — situation.

The public has a right to know.

We are not specifically blaming the jail situation on Sheriff Rob Craft. He can only work with what he is given. Doubling his budget to ship inmates to an out-of-county jail or paying on a bond for a new or updated facility is not in his power.

Crime does not take a break and there are some weeks when crime seems to work overtime. These all are circumstances out of his control.

We know the jail has been a concern of taxpayers and officials for more than five years.

The blame should be placed on all of us. We knew about it yet did nothing.

County voters did not want a sales tax increase in 2008; businesses selling big-ticket items argued it would diminish sales.

The county continues to spend a lot of time talking about a property tax that may not be constitutional.

This newspaper represents the public — including inmates.

We’re the watchdog of public funds, public officials, and public facilities.

We’re not headhunters. We want resolution just like everyone else.

Now is the time to resolve this dispute without politics as usual.

While a new jail might be a nice addition to a place like Marion’s industrial park, the most logical location would seem to be as close as possible to the current courthouse. Engineers and planners concerned with transportation and construction costs should decide where to put the jail. Other agendas should not be a factor.

While no one wants to have to pay for a jail, this is not the time to try unusual taxation schemes that would attempt to tax everyone — rich and poor alike — the same amount.

Traditionally, public safety — which is what the jail provides — is an expense typically paid by an ad valorem tax; a property tax based on value. Flat-rate head taxes and sales taxes mean everyone pays the same, regardless of ability to pay more.

The property taxation system has worked for 150 years.

Now is not the time to try to change it.

— susan berg

Last modified Aug. 11, 2010

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