Got back from grocery shopping and had a recorded message from Sheriff Phil Miller.  He said, “I’ll be blunt.  You need to vote yes for the SPLOST.”  Then talked about how dangerous the current jail was.

Also got a flyer in the mail from the Keep Douglas Safe committee…which included a LONG editorial of persuasion to vote yes on the SPLOST.  It reads:

New Jail is matter of Good Government, Common Sense, & Public Safety

Jails might not be the most popular improvement in a county, but they’re essential to keeping a community safe.  We have to have them, and we have to keep up, unfortunately, with the usage demands on them.  Here in Douglas County, there is a serious need to bring our jail facility up to date.

Overcrowding in any jail prevents law enforcement community from meeting its obligations efficiently.  Being at or over capacity in Douglas County means we have to house inmates in other counties.  This costs Douglas taxpayers extra money for housing and transporting those inmates.  Our tax dollars are heading straight over to Irwin County every time we run the bus.  We have to spend this money to keep these inmates incarcerated, so we might as well do everything we can to keep more of our own money in Douglas County.

The deputies, guards and jailers who work for me put their lives on the line every day, and the more crowded a jail is, the more dangerous it is for the guards and jailers.  Guards in proximity to inmates are more vulnerable to being attacked, and less able to defend themselves in smaller, crowded spaces.  Transporting inmates increases the contact with prisoners, and increases the risk to my deputies.  Each one of these trips is another opportunity where a guard may become injured–or worse.

Douglas County faces the very real prospect of eventual federal intervention at the jail (Editor’s note: Judge Schoob has said she is not planning to force DC to build a jail–this has been confirmed).  It was a federal court order that forced Douglas County to build our current jail, in 1980, at increased tax expense to every homeowner in Douglas.  If that happens, County officials have no say in the design, capacity or expense of a new jail–they could order us to build a Taj Mahal (Editor’s Note: The proposed jail will cost $151 million.  You tell me that isn’t a Taj Mahal.), and we would be forced to comply.  Federal mandates on jail procedures, and added expenses would come with these mandates.

Fortunately for Douglas County taxpayers, there is time to act and spare our county from enduring costly, time-consuming “fixes” for our jail situation.

On November 3, we can adopt a simple one-cent sales tax to build a better, safer jail.  The tax is set for 6-year maximum, capped at $151 million (Editor’s Note:  The economy is bad right now.  What happens if they don’t raise this in six years?  Do they raise property taxes?), and the funds raised will go only to a new detention facility–and nothing else.  Once the money has been raised, the tax ends, period.  This is a temporary tax, and it’s dedicated to funding construction of the new facility only.

I don’t like paying taxes any more than any Douglas County homeowner.  But this one-cent sales tax will fund a basic government function that we need to keep our county safe from people who have been charged with crimes.  This is not an optional government luxury–it’s basic public safety, which is what you hired me to do when you elected me.

I hope we do what is right for our community and our public safety employees by giving Douglas County the jail it is so desperately needs (Editor’s Note: yes, that’s how it’s written.)

Phil Miller, Sheriff, Douglas County

And by the way…the website is still not up.  And why have we not seen the plans for the jail?  It will house 1,500 inmates…and the jail has 845 inmates now…and there are a LOT awaiting trial who are in there on a temporary basis.  Why have we not seen maps of where things will be located on the jail complex?  How many floors will it be?  Plans were provided during a previous SPLOST…why not this time?  Why didn’t the sheriff’s department put this information on their website?  Also, a study has not been done on how large the jail should be.  BOC Chairman Tom Worthan didn’t want to spend $40-60,000 to do a study. That’s a lot less than $151 million–and maybe if it was done, the jail wouldn’t cost $151 million.  And does the cost of this also include the office/administrative building they were proposing to build next to the new jail?  So many questions, so few answers…