Friday, November 20, 2009
What a deal! It must be Christmas and Black Friday for Jail Beds. Canyon County just got to rent jail beds for $40/day. It now costs Canyon County $84/day to run our jail per comments made by Commissioner Kathy Alder to a public service group last week.
Jail bond costs were going to be $10,000/day ($3.6 Million a year) just to pay back the interest and principle on the loan. THE GUARDIAN would submit to the Commishes they need to consider renting all the jail beds they can for $40/day. This is a 52% mark down from what it now costs us per bed to run our own jail.
It currently costs $9.1 million a year to operate the Canyon County Jail. That comes to $24,931.50 per day, 365 days a year. $40/day for jail beds is a bargain no matter how you look at it. The bond repayment costs of $10k/day will fund the county buying 250 additional beds per day. Until we reach that point contract beds make sense. Especially when you read in the paper they are leaving 58 beds empty out of the 296 available. Jails are big expensive facilities that will bleed taxpayers dry if not managed properly. You can't ignore maintenance and cleanliness and not expect to get a lawsuit from the ACLU.
We present this for people to consider as we move into the next phase of trying to sell the voting public a new jail. The costs of $84/day per bed are for real and are a costly reminder of how much justice can we afford. THE GUARDIAN has also taken note we now have five times more people in this country than we did 30 years ago. The reason is President Nixon's WAR ON DRUGS. We have far too many non-violent people in jails and prisons and are bumping up against what taxpayers are willing to shell out for incarceration costs. There is a disconnect between the taxpayers, sheirff, prosecutor and the judges. Jail is not always the best option and it is time Canyon County got serious about other options to jail for low level offenders.
We now have 13 states that have decriminalized marijuana sales and possession. They have instituted medical marijuana laws. Oregon has proposal to legalize drugs will be out next week for legislative debate. California wants to tax cannabis at the rate of $50/oz and the proponents say it will raise $1.3 billion to the State Treasury. The President has instructed the Feds to leave medical marijuana sales locations alone if they are in compliance with their respective state laws. Point is, the WAR ON DRUGS is a complete failure. The political will to keep people locked up for drug use is getting called into question all over the country as the recession deepens and money for running prisons and jails dries up.
Mandatory sentencing is also getting called out for review by the Federal Government. California and their Three Strikes Laws are under scrutiny. The Economist magazine this week has an extensive article on the subject of people getting little to no punishment for the use of drugs in Europe. It is handled for the most part with fines and citations that go to support drug rehab and deterrence programs. On the average 0.2% of people charged with drug violations end up in prisons or jails and the sentences run from a few days to a average maximum of 20 months. Contrast that with the State of Texas where they have people in prison for 99years on marijuana charges.
It may be time to rethink the drug problems in Idaho. Billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on the Drug War since the Nixon years. Sentencing laws aimed at drug kingpins are routinely used against low level offenders and have filled prisons and jails.
One last comment on jails. They are also used as repositories for mentally ill people. In the 1980's President Reagan emptied out the mental hospitals and "mainstreamed" mentally ill people. The reality is these people had no safety net and ended up in jails and prisons. It is far cheaper to keep them in mental custodial care than in jails and prisons. We have got to figure out a better way to deal with this segment of society.
Final note, the Commishes get to fork over $190,000 of our tax dollars to the ACLU for their mismanagement of the Canyon County Jail. This is the final negotiated legal costs of ignoring their responsibility to provide a humane, clean, safe environment for inmates. Think of it as a $520/day surcharge on jail operations for the next year. The price paid for the lesson learned in jail costs and management by the Commishes.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:45 AM