How much is a new jail truly worth?
Jeff Davis Parish (JDP) voters will have a very important decision to make on May 3 – whether or not to support a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that would fund the annual operations and maintenance costs for a new 200-bed jail.
In your mind, you might have already decided yes or no. Whatever your decision, we hope you have not made it without much consideration.
Does JDP need a larger jail? Definitely. We could discuss how the current jail is outdated and in need of many repairs; we could point out that there is no room to appropriately expand the current jail on the JDP Courthouse campus. Putting those facts aside, however, we can all agree that too many pre-trial felony offenders are enjoying life and continuing to commit crimes in our communities while they await a day in court.
Do you ever read the police report in Sunday editions of this newspaper and notice that many of the same people are arrested time and time again? It’s not only because they are career criminals, with no respect for themselves or society – it’s also because while they are waiting to go to trial, they get arrested yet again. But unless these people have committed violent crimes, are denied bond for one reason or another or cannot pay the bond they have already received, they are booked then sent right back into the streets. Why? Because they already have an appointment with a judge and there are more offenders waiting to be arrested.
Obviously, some people are not worth paying taxes to keep in jail. For example, would you rather see the person who stole a candy bar from a store sitting in jail or the guy who was caught with several kilos of cocaine? Most of us would prefer seeing the coke dealer in a cell.
However, right now, officials are having to decide which criminal needs to stay behind bars and which one has to be let out so another offender can come in. Do you release the guy who was caught with the cocaine, or the guy caught with dozens of prescription pills that were not in his name?
People get arrested in JDP. People go before the judge. Many people even get sentenced to state prisons. But before they finally see a court date – which can take months – they are free to be a part of our communities, continuing to make our lives miserable.
On the flip side of that thought are these questions: Why should we pay more taxes when some people might still be released from a 200-bed facility? Why should we pay to operate a bigger jail when that one will likely stay full, too? Can’t the parish offices we already pay taxes into like the police jury, sheriff’s department, tax assessor and others tighten their belts a little more so people are not having to pinch a few more pennies? Every cent means a lot to many individuals and their families. Everyday necessities alone get more expensive each year, sometimes each month. Can many of our people afford to pay a little more each time they need milk and bread?
There are many different aspects to this issue. There are many questions. This is why the Jennings Daily News is asking area residents to let us question officials on their behalf. If you have a concern or question regarding the proposed new jail or the proposed half-cent sales tax, bring your question to us and let us ask the officials involved. You do not have to give us your name and we will not share any names with officials or the public. Simply email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org; mail it to P.O. Box 910 Jennings, LA, 70546; or drop it off at our office at 238 North Market Street. To ensure your question is answered and published, please submit to us as soon as possible.
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