Jailhouse woes

The article in the Sunday Hays Daily with the headline “Jail taking shape” by Mike Corn contains significant falsehoods I would like to address at this time.

First, it is interesting that once again, no commissioners or space needs committee members were contacted to verify statements made by Sheriff Ed Harbin. My degree in journalism tells me this is not responsible or balanced news writing. It seemed less like an informative news article and more like Mr. Corn was acting as the sheriff’s personal publicist.

Second, the truth is the sheriff’s wants were considered throughout the process leading up to and during the construction. In the beginning, competing visions for the jail were considered, but the cost of constructing a stand-alone jail for 100 prisoners was at a minimum $12 million to $15 million. That amount did not include the additional staff members needed to run that jail or the cost of transporting prisoners to and from that jail for court proceedings. Space needs committee members and commissioners determined that with the combined facility needs of the courthouse, county administration, ambulance, EMS, emergency management and rural fire, the cost of a stand-alone jail would have been prohibitive and taxpayers would not approve that big of a bond issue.

Third, and here is the most important point to make in response to this error-laden article:

Even after the sales tax passed and prior to bids being let, the sheriff was given the opportunity to remove the jail renovations from the project with our support. Sheriff Ed Harbin could have then gone to voters with his stand-alone jail project and convinced them the benefits outweighed the tremendous cost. The fact is Sheriff Harbin declined the opportunity and the option and decided to be a part of the rest of the projects we believe were fair, balanced and reasonable given all the circumstances.

In summary. Sheriff Harbin and his staff were consulted and a part of the decision-making process covering the jail and law-enforcement center portion of the project from the very inception.

As for the size of the jail, it is extremely important to understand the renovations doubled the prisoner capacity. Instead of continuing to publicly undermine the jail project and its alleged lack of capacity, my suggestion is the sheriff meet with the judges and county attorney to discuss options for managing the prisoner population. In particular, together, maybe they could search for ways to balance the need to house serious offenders as opposed to nonviolent offenders.

In the future, it seems to me that it would be more useful for everyone concerned to complain less publicly and work together to find solutions to any alleged shortcomings.

Barbara K. Wasinger,