Sunday, November 23, 2008
The following is the county's response to the Idaho Press Tribune's Editorial Board, after their editorial ran in the Sunday, Nov. 16 edition.
Your editorial on Sunday, Nov. 16, states that local authorities “need to bring all the parties involved to the table” on a solution to the jail overcrowding problem that has plagued Canyon County for the past 12 years. In fact, all the parties have been working together for quite some time to cut down on the number of inmates incarcerated, and to design a plan for a new jail facility. Perhaps the Idaho Press Tribune’s idea and our idea of who makes up “all the parties,” differ, but the sheriff, commissioners, police chiefs, judges, jail officials, prosecutors and many others have been involved in planning and preparation, brainstorming alternate sentencing, etc., for years.
You suggest working with the group of people currently suing the county to find a solution that is acceptable to them. It’s time someone pointed out that two of those people were on the Board of Commissioners which built the current jail, and that those commissioners were sued by the then-sheriff for building a jail that did not meet any of the standards of jails being built at that time. All of the things Sheriff Putman alleged came true, and now when the county officials are working together to find a solution that will last more than the three years the Dale Haile Detention Center was good for, those former commissioners are holding themselves up as beacons of wisdom for the new board to follow. Forgive us if we look elsewhere for advice.
You also state “county officials need to meet with the American Civil Liberties Union” to discuss how to avoid a lawsuit. Way ahead of you. Sheriff Chris Smith has been working very closely with the ACLU, and mentioned that to your reporter. So, here sits the IPT editorial board, coming up with all sorts of helpful suggestions to better govern the county, when the county has been implementing those steps for years. It seems to be a blatant attempt to make the elected officials look bad, and we can only hope your readers are too smart to fall for it.
To insinuate that the sheriff, judges, jail administrators, commissioners, prosecutors, police chiefs, etc., are each working in an individual bubble, with no cooperation or communication, is asinine. All of these people work very closely together to do what’s best for the people of Canyon County, and those people include jail staff, who come to work every day to deplorable conditions in which your editorial board, and most county taxpayers, would never consider working.
After the jail bond failed in 2006, we went out to the communities to gather input on a potential new jail, and jail site. We put together a citizens group from a cross-section of county residents, who worked with county officials to investigate every site suggested at those town hall meetings, and that committee recommended the current Notus site, which the county subsequently purchased. Now you are suggesting we meet with a different group of people to discuss a new group of sites. Please realize that after the last bond, the process has taken us two years to get to a point where we’re considering another bond election. If the voters were to pass a jail bond, it would be three more years before we could move inmates into the new facility. If we followed your suggestion, we’d be at least five years from moving into a new jail.
We always appreciate citizen input with positive solutions to county issues. However, going back to a plan that didn’t work is not in the county’s best interest. All of the ideas you suggest we explore have been explored. All this bantering back and forth has been and continues to be counterproductive toward the goal of public safety and justice in our community.
A group of very intelligent people, knowledgeable in sentencing, housing and caring for inmates have been working on this for years. Now, let’s make a deal: since we know about as much about running a newspaper as you know about operating a jail, how about the Press Tribune Editorial Board stops telling us how to run our business, we won’t tell you how to run yours.
Commissioners David Ferdinand, Matt Beebe and Steve Rule and Sheriff Chris Smith
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:02 AM