Public should pay attention to jail study results

Published 6:35 am Thursday, September 20, 2018


The Advocate-Messenger

The initial results of a comprehensive study of the Boyle County Detention Center and the criminal justice systems in Boyle and Mercer counties will be released Friday. It’s a big deal that should matter to you.

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It can be hard to get excited about data and statistics on inmate demographics, or criminal sentencing, or law enforcement policies — until you realize how much of an impact those statistics and data have on your quality of life.

When we keep people locked up in jail, that means they’re not doing something else. When that something else would be committing crime or putting other people’s lives at risk, it’s a very good thing that they’re locked up. When that something else is working a job, getting an education or caring for a child, incarceration becomes harmful — to that individual, to that individual’s family and to the community that would benefit from having that individual’s contributions.

Put more simply, there are people who belong in jail and there are people who don’t. We all benefit when our criminal justice system locks up as many of the people who need jail as is necessary. We all benefit when the system locks up as few of the people who don’t need jail as possible. And we all benefit when the system helps people who need jail change into people who don’t need jail.

The information being presented to the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee on Friday (at 1:30 p.m. at Inter-County Energy’s community room, 1009 Hustonville Road, Danville) will hopefully include recommendations on all three of those fronts.

If the recommendations are sound and local officials choose to follow them, we will hopefully see more people getting out of jail to pursue positive endeavors; more people breaking out of a cycle of drug addiction; more families staying together and more jobs being kept. We might also see more people who need incarceration going to jail, and staying there longer.

In the long run, those changes will lead to a higher quality of life across the board, lower bills for taxpayers, a more educated population and more businesses interested in locating here.

Whatever Friday’s recommendations are, the end goal is a safe community that spends exactly the right amount of money on jailing people and exactly the right amount of money on helping people so they don’t go to jail, or won’t go back.

But our elected officials can’t just fix everything on their own. They need community support, they need public buy-in — or they won’t succeed.

That’s why this should matter to you. To get to that better place in the future, the public needs to pay attention now. We all need to take an interest in what the jail consultants have to say and why they are saying it. Then we can lend our support to the best path and walk forward together.