Whatcom County Jail: Another reason to examine costs / Facebook post, Joy Gilfilen

criminal justic reformJuly 30 2015  Joy Gilfilen

Another reason to examine costs – check this article out. This is why many of our fully informed taxpayers will vote down the sales tax…and then we have to start figuring out how to downsize our punishment system.

People do not want to put ourselves into forced financial debt for expensive, escalating and uncontrolled operating costs of an overbuilt jail! Five years of real world field research in Whatcom County shows me that we do not need the .02% sales tax if we examine our past practices for culpability in overcrowding our facility.

Our serious crime rates are down 25% in the past 5 years, and juvenile crime is down 80% according to our Prosecutor, yet he recommends building a bigger jail? Why? The stats across the state and nation agree that we should be reversing our jail time, for prisons are not working as they were expected. So why does he want to increase our size, scope and depth?

Why does our County Executive continue to bully Councilmen to pretend that his sales tax proposal is a good idea…when he doesn’t have a solid plan to back it up? It is irresponsible to recommend, let alone actually build, and force generations of taxpayers to pay to operate a jail that has not yet been justified.

Why has our county not looked into why we have been operating an inhumane and unsafe jail for years? Whose responsibility is it to oversee the Sheriff’s Department management practices, Prosecutorial and Court Practices, Administrative practices? Self-policing of our own administrative costs is a tough thing to do, yet are they culpable in increasing the jail bed stay rates? We have been operating an inhumane jail for years now. Why is the Sheriff ok with that?

The Restorative Community Coalition, along with many other taxpayers have been asking for stats, for accountability, for reviews. Yet that was not done before this plan was promoted and the sales tax was promoted. What if review and analysis showed that with administrative corrections we could cut the inmate population down 30 to 50%?

Without review, why should the taxpayers pay for an increase in their territory at the public’s expense. Should we reward our law and justice administrators for potential mismanagement of freedom? We already increased our sales taxes to build a jail, to do mental health work. Was that really not enough…or where did it really go?

We, the people of Whatcom County in the past few years have already paid approximately $3 Million dollars to biased jail planners (who make money from building jails). They did not complete a Needs Assessment – which forms the basis of all fiscal planning. They told the Council they did not need a public hearing to buy land…yet inside the FEIS document they said the full responsibility for all decisions sits on the Council, yet inside the document they declared that it was “outside the scope” of their jail planning to discuss or consider economic alternatives to jail that would give us a far better return on investment. They also did not give the Council a true second choice in the final recommendations…yet that is supposed to part of the FEIS process. Why are they allowed to push and shove a jail plan to the people, via a sales tax argument…that has not been vetted by the people, that did not consider options?

Here is quote from this article: “Over the past three decades, America’s federal prison population has more than quadrupled — from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. Prison spending has increased alongside it, placing a heavy burden on American taxpayers. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, between 1980-2013, prison spending has increased by 595 percent, a staggering figure that is both irresponsible and unsustainable. Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25 percent of the entire Department of Justice budget.” And think about it…what about all the rest of the homeland security, war and other items?

The push to do punishment for profits…to incarcerate our non-violent people has broken the taxpayer bank. We must transform this problem. And we can do it starting in Bellingham and Whatcom County today, this month, this year. First we have to vote down their free lunch, and start honestly looking at the people inside the jail and see what it will take to free them to go to work, to take care of their families. And we have to replace jail industry jobs with healing arts and relationship building jobs. It is past time to take care of our own people.

Read the article “Now is the time for criminal justice reform” on the Washington Examiner here.

Read Joy’s post on her Joy Gilfilen for Whatcom County Executive page here.

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