Published 5:35 am Monday, July 17, 2006
Jail security just what we needed from commission
Some creative thinking and a little shuffling have given the Escambia County Sheriff's Department what it needs: more security for the jail.
Escambia County commissioners made the right decision Friday when they approved four new jail staffers for the detention facility.
The new staffers will be paid for with additional revenue from housing federal inmates.
The jail will be making room for those new federal inmates by moving some work release inmates to the new work center across the street from the jail.
The creative thinking made everyone happy at Friday morning's commission meeting. Increasing jail security should certainly be a top priority for county officials - especially in light of another jail escape on Wednesday, which likely was partially the result of short staff at the facility.
But the reason our county officials have to go looking for outside revenue to pay for new security should make all of us mad.
The county receives only $1.75 per day from the state to house each state inmate. That's not enough to feed them, let alone pay for the overhead of housing them and securing them.
The federal government pays $32.42 per federal inmate per day - which is where the county will be making its money to pay for new security and improvements.
Alabama's jail population problem has improved, but not enough. The state's new prison commissioner barely avoided jail himself earlier this year after a judge ordered the state to clear its backlog of state prisoners from county jails.
The state made the deadline, but now it must work to maintain the status quo - and make progress.
As a state, we have two options: We can continue to throw too little money at a growing problem, or we can try to reduce the prison population through other means - hopefully, not by releasing inmates too early.
We need to be spending money on creative ideas in crime prevention, so that we aren't spending money on new places to house more and more criminals.
Our local officials came up with a creative way out of their jail problem. The state needs to do the same.