To the editor:
This letter is composed because my concern for the public safety, health and well being must be voiced for the citizens of Juniata County.
Although the commissioners of Juniata County have not yet made a deciding vote on the subject of closing the county prison, they most likely will soon, but before that happens I must put my thoughts into words.
This is food for thought and, if necessary on the reader's part, action.
Put yourself in this picture.
It is severely storming, your child is having an asthma attack, you call for an ambulance, they arrive and you are in the Narrows on Route 322W headed to Lewistown for your child's care. Suddenly, traffic slows and then stops, you wonder why. You realize that the ambulance is trapped in this traffic snarl. Now what?
Your phone rings and you learn that ahead of you a Juniata County prison van has overturned and the traffic will not be moving anytime soon. The ambulance must find an alternative route. (This story could be enhanced but I will refrain).
Ahead of you, as you later learn, while transporting prisoners from Juniata County court to the place where the prisoners are outsourced to be housed, a deputy sheriff has been fatally injured, the sheriff has been critically injured and was airlifted for care. Two inmates have severe trauma and may need airlifted as well. Two more inmates are treated and released from the hospital and one has escaped into the mountains. That one is a known pedophile that has not yet been transferred to his final destination of punishment. The other vehicle hit by the prison van during crash had injuries as well.
A manhunt has begun. Your teenage daughter is home alone and because you asked her to take the garbage to the curb, she is doing that, she turns and finds herself face to face with the escaped prisoner. Again he commits his crime and God forbid maybe worse.
Think this couldn't happen in the event that the county prison is outsourced to another county for housing? Think again. You know it could happen, we are not immune to such incidents. What kind of effect would this have on our close knit county family? Is it worth taking that kind of chance by closing the prison? Think about the money a scenario such as that would cost. Death benefits, medical expenses, liability, the expense of the manhunt hours and more. This kind of outlay is certainly not found in the Juniata County budget. And by the way, for those of you who live in Mifflin County, think how this would and can affect you as well.
On the surface I can almost understand why the commissioners may choose to close the prison. What I cannot fathom is why they seem to be intentionally ignoring any other option. Closing the prison will most likely not save the county any money in the long run. It may for the moment but not after a long-range time.
We all need to look at this issue closely and take responsibility for our part in this mess. I am not going to be popular for this train of thought, but oh well.
Maybe after nearly 40 years it is time for reassessment. What would your household be like if your budget was based on figures of 1974?
What about personal taxes (that include school tax)? Would it be too much to individually pay up to $10 a month for our children to get a good education as well as for our public safety, health and wellbeing? I know I could live without one $10 vice a month, as could most of us. The question is are we willing to do so?
The commissioners of Juniata County need to sit back, take a breath and study all options of this issue. They need to gain some courage to do what is truly needed for this county, even though it may not be the popular thing to do and may not gain them votes for the next election. Sometimes, what is best for all concerned hurts. Sometimes being a "manager" (commissioner) leaves you in an unpopular seat, but as I said before: Oh well, that is what you are being paid to do - manage. People have volunteered to assist you in the task of studying all options. It appears as if their help is being rejected. Is that a good choice?
Dear commissioners, before you do anything about anything, have all your facts in front of you. Study every angle of this issue so you can truly say your decision was based on facts and is for the best of the county with a clear conscience. Our public safety, health and well being are in your hands. Use your power wisely.
Dear reader, contact one or more of the commissioners this very moment to let them know your concerns on this issue.
Connie L. Kerstetter