al-Qaeda in new jail?

Count on seeing federal prisoners in our new jail; that’s one of the reasons the capacity is so large.

Doubt that could happen? Consider the following points.

Ogle County citizens rejected the proposed federal immigration detention center.

The state women’s prison was rejected by citizens in the Stillman Valley area.

Both the Illinois State Police and the FBI have inquired about renting jail cells in the new Winnebago County jail.

County Board member Doug Aurand has said he likes the idea of renting out jail cells to make money for the county, although he doesn’t like the idea of federal prisoners being there now because of the overcrowding issue.

Sheriff Richard Meyers has admitted we now have federal prisoners in our jail on a temporary basis for transportation purposes. He has said we will probably have federal prisoners in the new jail.

The new jail will have an immediate capacity of 988 prisoners with the expansion capacity of 1,212 prisoners. The old jail in the Winnebago County Public Safety Building has a capacity of 394 prisoners. That’s a total of 1,606 beds. Earlier this year, the average for prisoners incarcerated was 534 per month during a three-month period. That leaves a total of 1,072 beds to rent out.

Conveniently, a new federal court house is being built within a block of the new jail.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli is an office holder of the National District Attorneys Association, involved with the local entity for nuclear accident response and well connected to other federal entities.

As the architects have pointed out in a public meeting, the new jail is built to federal prison standards, with the building designed to be set back with appropriate barriers for any bombing vehicles from the street.

Strategically and centrally located far away from every coastal border, Rockford would be a perfect place for Homeland Security to hold a trial for any al-Qaeda or other person charged with terrorism, without endangering major population centers like Chicago or those on the East Coast.

Is this what we want for our community? No! Consider the media circus and what these elements would do to the image and safety of our community.

Rockford does not need to become a target or focal point for this kind of international or federal garbage.

Even if we have run-of-the-mill federal prisoners (if there are such), the baggage that comes with them would damage our community’s well-being.

Another question is: Why do we and not the feds have to pay the tab and shoulder the responsibility as a community?

Here’s the deal. At this time, the feds pay $80 a day per bed for any federal prisoners in our jail. Multiply that times 365, and we’ll get $29,500 per bed per year from the feds.

To overbuild our jail for revenue is a very bad investment for the image, health and safety of the citizens of Winnebago County. We don’t need the controversy or the danger.

Letting I-90 go past Rockford, tearing down the old Rockford College and our antebellum courthouse, and putting in the downtown mall were the mistakes of decades past.

Don’t let this huge new jail be the mistake of the century to come.

We don’t need this monstrous Bastille in our downtown River District. As one of the many business persons who has worked hard to grow my business, I will echo the sentiments of many of his River District peers in rejecting County Board member John Sweeney’s assertion that the downtown’s future is as a “government center.” The River District belongs to the businesses located here and the citizens of Rockford, not the steamroller of ever-expanding government that does not pay any property taxes, but instead consumes our resources and land available for our future growth.

We do not welcome a parasitic criminal justice/industrial complex that incarcerates an inordinate proportion of our minority and economically disadvantaged population.

We don’t want a growth industry that makes money from jail cells. That’s an insult to our talent, our style and the fine fabric of our community efforts.

The cart of the KGB style-jail on Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow is before the horse of crime prevention and alternatives to incarceration. These alternative programs have not been implemented; new judges have not been brought in; new staff has not been given to the state’s attorney or the public defender’s office, to relieve the front end of the jail problem. These measures must be implemented and given at least two years to work to truly determine how many jail cells we need—for Winnebago County offenders—not state or federal offenders.

Let’s not waste our tax dollars for state or federal needs. Let’s not terrorize ourselves.

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