Build a new Jail, Is it a Done Deal?
Beaufort County Commissioners voted to form a committee to "investigate the jail situation". The committee is empowered to look at all alternatives. This sounds good until one examines the whole situation.
There are a lot of red flags, The first is the majority of the Board of Commissioners refused to allowed to serve on the committee. This is not at boastful statement, but I have done more work and know more about the jail situation than any other commissioner.
The second red flag is there will be only three commissioners and six members of the public on the committee. The three commissioners are to recruit the other six members with the approval of the Board of County Commissioners. This is a typical situation in which the activists who want a new jail will swarm to become members of the committee.
The third red flag waved when the three commissioners met on December 18 to discuss the committee organization. They discussed whether to name the committee the "Public Safety Center Committee" or the :Jail Committee:. Documents presented at the meeting were titled "Public Safety Center Committee". This is a dead give away as to their intentions.
The three commissioners are Frankie Waters, Jerry Langley and John Rebholz. We know Langley is for a new jail. Both Evans and Rebholz have made statements and otherwise indicated that the present jail is not adequate. Rebholz statement that he is a Buzzeo Republican tells all we need to know. The ultra liberal Buzzeo never saw a tax hike he did not like. Evans will support the new jail. He was a player in the decision not to send for people to repair the cell doors. Wow, Evans makes the fourth vote to build a jail or at worst a public safety complex.
Then there is the relationship among Sheriff Coleman, Frankie Waters and Jerry Evans. They swapped campaign money according to the filed election reports. These three people supported each other to not call the repair company to fix the jail cell doors in January of 2019. They started keeping more than 20 prisoners in other jails without a vote of the commissioners. This is a back room deal fabricated to increase costs and help them justify a new jail. This is a corrupt practice. The additional cost of about $1,500 per day or $45,000 per month. This cost will continue for at least another twelve months at a cost to the taxpayer of about $800,000 plus a very mismanaged repair job for an additional 1.5 million. The entire scheme is intended to force up jail operating costs in order to justify a new public safety complex.
I believe Waters, Evans and Sheriff Coleman intended to fabricate an emergency around the jail doors and use it to stampede the commissioners into moving toward building a new jail. Stan Deatherage and I caught them early on and exposed their hand. It is dishonest (a violation of fiduciary responsibility) to fail to call for repairs when county property is broken. .
Typically committees like this will issue a few reports to the press and then declare they have found the solution and it is a new jail or public safety complex.
There are a lot of issues that surround jailing people. Recently the courts and Federal Justice Department have decided that people who would not normally receive a jail sentence for a crime should not be in jail simply because they cannot make a bail bond. This reduces jail populations.. We all know that people who commit violent and felony crimes, selling drugs, robbery, murder and various sex offences should be in jail.
In Beaufort County we need a rapid screening of new prisoners to avoid keeping anyone beyond the initial arrest who could be released. Ankle bracelets may be able to reduce jail populations. We also need to shorten the time between arrest and trial. About 90 days is the quickest any person who cannot make bond can be tried.
We need the approval and cooperation of District Attorneys, Judges and probation officials to make the system work better.
My complaint is that the county commissioners have not even started to examine these issues. Many jurisdictions have studded these issues and are making progress toward reducing jail time and jail populations.
Building a larger jail means we can lock up more people and forget about them for longer periods of time. Building a larger jail means more employees, more expense and another mortgage to pay off.
Fortunately we are having an election this year. The new jail is an election issue. We have an opportunity to stop the new jail process by electing conservative commissioners who are willing to truly examine alternatives before spending millions on a jail that will produce nothing but more injustice and expense without reducing crime in Beaufort County.
This jail situation has all the markings of the school system fiasco. Do we need a overstaffed jail that his half empty?
All the commissioners on this committee support a new jail. Two are running in the 2020 elections. The voters have the power to stop the jail and bring an economical justice system to Beaufort County by not electing Evans and Rebholz.