Jail debate will require more voices

Published 9:44 am Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Positive strides were made when the Lawrence County Jail Committee met for its first meeting last week, as the group began brainstorming ways to address a myriad of structural, staffing and overcrowding issues at the aging facility.

But the first step — and one not everyone in the community seems to have fully embraced — is simply acknowledging that there is a problem that can no longer be avoided or ignored. For far too long that has been the mindset by some county leaders and far too many citizens.

Recent inspections by the state have made it clear that the conditions at the jail won’t be tolerated for much longer and allowing the state to close it could be far more costly to taxpayers in the long run.

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So now comes the daunting task of finding a solution with limited resources — or finding a way to grow those resources without overburdening citizens, many of whom are already dealing with a still sluggish economy.

As we’ve said before, Lawrence County needs help.

It is unrealistic to think that the sheriff, the prosecutor, the county commissioners or anyone else who serves on this committee will have a full understanding of all the needs, challenges and possible solutions involved with a project the scope.

The county should seek expert assistance through a consulting firm that specializes in jail or incarceration projects. Nothing is wrong with asking for guidance and it is impossible to beat someone who is doing what they do best.

Spending a little bit of extra money now could save the taxpayers a fortune down the road and lead to ideas no one local would even consider.