Some city officials and corrections leaders want a new jail. A consultant report from 2016 estimated it could cost $300 million to build it. THREE HUNDRED MILLION. And it would likely be more now. The math isn’t mathing. The math, passed to the city and jail officials via consultants they hired, sounds like a way for pro-penal system folks to cash grab off the backs of local taxpayers. The complaints of those pro new jail are that the current jail building is 54 years old and isn’t built to house more than 1,400 people a day which is the daily populous of the jail in recent months. And, now that ten people have died since last November, they’re ready to push a high price tag on local taxpayers without offering answers as to why inmates have died.
How much of the issue could be that some of those in jail shouldn’t be there in the first place? The ACLU certainly seems to agree, as do other activists. To be honest, jail should be used sparingly. Violent offenses where there is clear and present danger to the community is the only reason I can think of. And while I think most jails should be damn-near empty, I’m not opposed to updating the current building in a way that addresses basic health and safety.
The issue is that poverty, mental illness and addiction have been weaponized in America as jail-able offenses. The system created its own problem and now is looking for yet another bailout. It’s really little different than the bank bailout, or the big auto bailout.
Capitalists spend their way into monetary issues and then want to squeeze money from the people who have the least. Authoritarians do the same with criminalizing things that shouldn’t be criminal.
Why are people in jail for crimes that present absolutely no corporeal danger to those around them? It’s a waste of space and creates the danger they claim it is to have an overcrowded jail. It’s nonsense to think that the only remedy is to throw money at more space to lock people up, which does two things — give LMPD more reason to increase the population of the jail to the next capacity and then discourage the real discourse which shouldn’t be increasing the sizes of our jails but improving the quality of our criminal justice system overall, and thoroughly moving away from incarceration as penalty toward reform/abolition and root cause work.
America is long overdue for an overhaul of the “justice” system. It hasn’t worked for a long time and has done more damage than good, especially for Black and Latino people. That we think increasing the budget of the abuser is somehow going to fix the issue, is asinine. If addiction is killing addicts in jail, increase the ability for them to access treatment instead of locking them up. Fix the root causes of so-called criminal activity with the millions and stop throwing giant cash drops of money at limited, ineffective solutions. In this situation, less is more. Decrease the population in jails, decrease the need that makes crime seem like an option and decrease the budget of LMPD officers and move that money toward the needs of the citizens.
We’ve overfunded our justice system in all the wrong ways and we can’t seem to figure out why those things haven’t worked, but yet we think the only way to fix it is to toss more money in a bottomless well. I’m sorry but again, the math isn’t mathing.
Citizens of the city should tell their council members that this coming “proposal” is unacceptable in any form without attention to the very basic and real ways to reduce the danger in our jails and reduce the population of American people we lock up because they are poor, sick and desperate. It’s shameful.
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