I agree with the main ideas and the intent of Michael Kleen’s [Jan. 4-10 issue] article on the county jail tax. Sales taxes are regressive, and they do affect lower income people more severely. It would be great if the 1-cent jail tax were removed someday. But I have several questions.
1) If incarceration is a very expensive way to reduce crime, and if it fails to deal with the root problem of criminality, then what options do we have to reduce the cost and why do we not have more programs for rehabilitation and prevention?
2) How does the tax drain $24 to $26 million out of the local economy? Does this money leave the county? I assume it is used to buy food and supplies for the inmates, pay salaries and benefits to employees, provide for utilities and maintenance to county facilities. I believe most of the money remains in our area. It is the distribution of resources that concerns Mr. Kleen, not money being drained away.
3) Exactly how much jail construction debt remains to be retired, and how much per year is being applied to that debt? How far are we from paying it off?
4) Which are the “other areas” of the county budget that the jail costs could be “folded into”?
5) How would crime taxes be collected from offenders, especially recidivists? I am guessing that these individuals generally don’t have the resources to pay for the wrongs they have committed. If nonpayment means people are detained longer, then we are increasing our costs?
6) When offenders are out cleaning up or doing community service, who will supervise them? Will the value of their work exceed the supervisor’s salary?
These are questions that need to be debated publicly, and I applaud Michael Kleen for raising the issues.
Loren R. Floto
From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue