Logli tries to sell jail idea to city

Logli tries to sell jail idea to city

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

“This is not a jail referendum, it’s a public safety referendum,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli (R), as he began his sales pitch to the Rockford City Council on September 30.

He emphasized the dire consequences he feels are looming ahead should the November 5, 2002 referendum fail.

“We (the county) have a federal lawsuit over our heads” and “that lawsuit is up and running,” Logli said. That possible lawsuit is the result of a shortage of space to house inmates.

Logli reports that the capacity of the county jail has increased from 180 beds in 1975 to its current capacity of 393. However, Logli says they routinely house 570 inmates.

As a result of current county budget problems, lack of available jail space and the possibility of a cap being forced on the county by federal officials, Logli says the type of criminals that will be released if a new jail is not built, will be “misdemeanor, forgery, retail theft, prostitutes, and business burglars.”

Logli wants a 1 cent increase in the local sales tax to fund a new jail, fund alternative programs designed to change criminals’ behavior, and fund new staff for the State’s Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Logli claims this sales tax increase will result in costing the “average family $4 to $6 per month.” The tax would last indefinitely.

The new jail plan calls for a 975-bed capacity, with the ability to expand it to 1200 beds, if needed. It would be located near the current Public Safety Building downtown. The cost of the new jail is slated at $109 million, and the physical structure of the building is expected to only last 20-30 years, Logli reports.

That will just fit with the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt, 20-30 years. The new figure of $109 million is down from $129 million last week. Including interest, taxpayers will still be paying more than $300 million for the term of the debt.

The proposed county budget for this year is hovering around $117 million, according to County Board Member Pete MacKay (R-5). If the proposed “public safety” referendum passes, the 1 cent sales tax should yield around $23 million per year. The 1 cent sales tax will increase the county budget by 20 percent.

If the project is delayed, Logli estimates an increase of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent per year in construction costs.

Logli implied that the recent increases in crime rates in Winnebago County are due to having to release criminals back onto the streets because of a lack of jail space. However, this view was challenged by Alderman Victory Bell (D-5) who asked if the increase in crime might be due to an influx of criminals from Chicago and other areas, rather than what Logli suggested. Logli countered by saying, “I don’t think people from other cities represent our problem.”

Under the administration of Mayor Charles Box and Rockford Housing Authority Executive Director Gary Verni-Lau, the RHA advertised in Chicago papers for residents.

The Chicago Housing Authority closed many of its housing complexes, including Cabrini-Green complex, and now offers vouchers which can be honored in any city in the region.

Verni-Lau resigned, reportedly under pressure from the new city administration, and was replaced by the former head of the local chapter of the NAACP, Lewis Jordan.

Various sources have reported that Rockford’s Orton Keyes is the new home for many Chicago residents, some of them gang members. Those same sources say Rockford is in the midst of a gang war, and that is a major contributing factor in Rockford having the highest crime rate in the state.

Aldermen Dick Goral (R-7), Leonard Jacobson (D-6) and Jeff Holt (D-11) expressed support for the referendum. Holt and Linda McNeely (D-13) peppered Logli with questions about the alternative programs and increasing the number of court rooms and judges.

Logli responded by saying, “We would like to double the size of the drug program because most of our problems are the result of drugs.”

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier also contributed to this story.

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