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FULLY FUND THE NEW JAIL COMPLEX

SHARE FULLY FUND THE NEW JAIL COMPLEX

Last November, when the referendum to bond was put before the voters, an overwhelming 87 percent of those who voted did so in favor of bonding for $120 million to fund the new Salt Lake County jail complex. We did so knowing that this funding would mean a slight increase in our property taxes. However, overriding the mandate of their constituents, our commissioners decided to fund the new jail for only $107 million. Without this additional $13 million, badly needed jail space to house more than 500 additional prisoners is in severe jeopardy and the new administration building cannot be built.

This funding shortfall means that the new jail will provide approximately 1,376 beds. While this may seem to be a big increase over the 700 beds currently available at the existing Metro jail, please carefully consider the following information:In 1995, there were 3,700 prisoners released from jail on a consent degree due to overcrowding. Through July 22 of this year 2,020 prisoners who were booked into jail were released within hours for the same reason. This alarmingly large and increasing number of released prisoners does not even include the 2,000-plus misdemeanant arrestees who were brought to jail this year and immediately released due to booking restrictions that were in effect at the time.

By postponing the construction of the additional jail space and the new administration building, we, the taxpayers, will most certainly end up paying more for these facilities in the future. Current estimations state that due to inflationary costs, the facilities that would cost $13 million to build today will likely cost an additional $5 million in three to five years.

I believe that the commission's failure to fund the jail in its entirety is short-sighted and displays a blatant disregard for the will and safety of their constituents. Additionally, I believe that the commissioners, deathly afraid of an election-year tax increase, have demonstrated election-year politics at its worst.

I respectfully ask that when the county's capacity to bond increases after Jan. 1, 1997, the commission put its own self- interests aside and act in the name of public safety and upon the will of their constituents, as we elected them to do, and fully fund our new jail complex.

Mike Thompson

Salt Lake City