Fiscal court making the right moves on jail

Published 7:28 pm Friday, April 26, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Boyle County’s newest fiscal court inherited an extremely complex problem in the local jail. They could have easily drowned when tossed into the deep end of such a deep pool, but so far they are doing an admirable and honest job. They’re working in the right ways toward the right goals.

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This isn’t to say that the previous court wasn’t doing the same things — it was the previous court, including three current magistrates, that picked up the ball and carried it forward to where it is now. They did a lot of heavy lifting by completing a comprehensive jail study, helping form the local Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and funding the Shepherd’s House outpatient treatment program.

Now it’s time for the next court to keep things moving forward. And they are.

A good example is how they unanimously voted this week to put funding for debt service back into the joint jail budget, after representatives from Mercer County convinced the Joint Jail Committee to take it out.

The current jail is now paid off, so there is no current debt service the county has to pay. But it’s also obvious that the current jail cannot continue to be used in its current state for much longer. The fiscal court understands the value of the jail study completed before their current terms in office. And they understand the need to think well ahead of what’s happening right now in order to successfully plan something as big as this.

The $243,000 they now plan to spend next fiscal year on jail debt probably won’t get spent. But on July 1, 2020, it will be sitting there, ready to be spent when needed on renovations to the current jail or construction of a new one.

That means Boyle will need $243,000 less in debt to complete whatever jail project it chooses, and it will pay less interest as a result. The final outcome? Boyle County’s next jail costs taxpayers less money.

Magistrates and new Judge-Executive Howard Hunt have also repeatedly expressed support for paying deputy jailers something closer to what they’re worth, and they’ve been working extremely well with Jailer Brian Wofford on multiple projects to improve services aimed at reducing recidivism — another way taxpayers can save money in the long run.

All of this is being done not just with taxpayer dollars in mind, but also an understanding that the jail deals with human beings and a desire to help those humans lead better lives. As Magistrate Jason Cullen noted during his “Pulse of the People” public forum Thursday night, inmates at the jail are not faceless — they are all someone’s child.

There’s still a long way to go to get the local jail and criminal justice system to where it ought to be. But we are moving in the right direction. We were glad to see the previous fiscal court do as much as it did; and we’re happy to see the new court jumping in to maintain the same positive momentum.