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Sunday, November 23, 2008

County Commishes and Sheriff Editorial In Sunday Paper On Jail Needs

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


  1. While they may well have a bunch of OFFICIALS agreeing about jail needs, locations, etc., the Commishes are missing the most important point in this exchange of ideas.

    They MUST get permission from 2/3 of the voters to spend their money if it exceeds a single year's revenues. You ask, WE decide!

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  3. Funny how the right leaning gun toting commishes can embrace the ACLU when it fits their agenda.

    The ACLU seeks to declare the jail FULL. They leave the solution up to the commishes and the voters. If the ACLU cherishes the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--cruel and unusual punishment, they need to also support Article 8, sec 3 of the Idaho Constitution--voter approval of debt.

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  5. This article by our elected officials is a classic example of Republicans who are way off message with the public. It is arrogant and offensive to those of us who have to pay the cost of their wild schemes.

    First let me say their article is not truthful. The jail has not been over crowded for twelve years. It was just starting become over crowded at the end of 2005 when I left office. The work out center was in the planning to avoid over crowding and was build in 2006. The beds in that facility have never been full since it was built.

    They lie about Sheriff Putnam's law suit over the Dale G. Haile jail. His complaint was about cracks in the new jail floors. In fact his concerns were never a problem or an issue after I opened up the new jail. The new jail needed some work on the ceilings not the floor. After that problem was fixed the jail operated great for twelve years.

    Now let's talk about what the sheriff and commissioners have and have not done to solve the jail over crowding.

    First they hid the purchase of the Jerome property from the public by send a half million of our tax dollars to the Idaho association of counties as dues. They then got a loan from the Idaho association of counties for a half million to put down on the Jerome property. This was a deliberate attempt to deceive the taxpayers.In addition to this the sheriff closed down the old jail and sent prisoners to Ada county and announced the ventilation system had failed. The sheriff never had the system checked out to see why it wasn't working. A year after closing down the old jail and spending Three Hundred Thousand dollars of our tax money to hold prisoners in Ada county they discovered the only thing wrong with the old jail ventilation system was that the prisoners had plugged all the in coming and out going ventilation vents with wet toilet paper.

    Their article forgot to mention the fact the citizen law suit was successful and they did in fact violate the state constitution.They also forgot to mention the fact they lied to the supreme court telling them the Jerome property had been sold when in fact it had not been sold and wasn't sold for over a year later after their court appearance.

    Second they appointed a citizen group to pick a site for a new jail but restricted them from considering adding on to the existing building. In fact gave them the only sites they could consider.

    Third, they decided the citizen group, that was spoon fed what they could consider, would take the place of voters. Now that the citizen group had decided where to build they would build it with out voter approval.

    The truth is huge supply of money that was flowing into the county dried up. Together with the citizens law suit over them again violating the state constitution has got legs. These are the only two reasons our elected officials are now coming back to the table with another bond election.

    They claim expertise on jails and want to make a deal with the news paper to not tell them what to do and they won't tell they how to run their news paper.

    The truth is none of these elected officials have ever ran a jail or even worked in a jail and don't have any more idea of what is needed or acceptable than the average citizen.

    These elected officials are all republicans and they have all abandoned the principals of the republican party. They are anything but conservatives.
    Smith has bloated his budget by creating a huge number of administrative positions that would bankrupt any private business.

    All in a nut shell our elected officials do not deserve our trust or our support.

    George Nourse


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