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Jail issue will take new ideas

Funding issues at the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office aren’t going away so it is time for the county to commit to taking a comprehensive look at how the office and the jail operate.

The sheriff has done an exemplary job but continues to face challenges meeting the most basic operational expenses of the department including food for inmates, gas for the police cars and utilities at the jail.

Although there have been some one-time expenses this year, the reality is operating the sheriff’s office and the jail isn’t getting any cheaper. The county commissioners have been good to keep applying financial Band-Aids but the reality is this will only temporarily stop the fiscal bleeding.

The sheriff, the commissioners and the judges should all sit down to discuss this issue holistically and look at what other counties and states are doing.

Can the judges reduce the number of people placed in jail, instead using house arrest and other alternatives? It isn’t an ideal situation and has been done already but it may be necessary to increase this approach.

Can fees and fines be implemented to require inmates foot the bill for their incarceration instead of the taxpayers? This may require help at the state level to enact laws that have more teeth in terms of collecting it.

Can the food service be changed to cut costs or could it even be handled by an outside agency? The Farm was a step in the right direction and we hope to see it grow.

Could an expanded work program be implemented to help the county save money elsewhere or make improvements in the community? Some of the county’s unions may object but it is time for anyone working for the taxpayers to realize that changes have to be made.

Some of these ideas have surely been looked at before but now is time to revisit them as well as seek new ideas.

Simply doing the same thing over and over again will end with the same results. The county’s future may very well hinge on a different outcome.