To the editor:
Editor's note: The following letter was sent to the Juniata County Commissioners, and a copy submitted to The Sentinel for publication.
Dear Juniata County Commissioners,
I am a citizen and a voter in Juniata County and in fact voted for each of you. First time I split my vote in some time.
My issue is the jail discussion and the options being offered. I tried to keep up with them but find myself confused that one option seems not to have been discussed.
If, as it seems, the jail is not within code parameters and would either need to be refurbished so as to comply with current standards, then why not bring the building up to code and let out a contract to do just that and make that contract include a finish date.
In the meantime the prisoners could be outsourced (which seems to be the final intent of some) during the period of time it would take to recondition the jail. This would eliminate the need to build a new jail or outsourcing prisoners permanently.
The negative of outsourcing is obvious in that we would be at the mercy of cost increases by others; have need to provide increased transport back and forth to court hearings; prisoners (guilty as well as those that might well be found not guilty in time) would be out of contact with family and friends during a very stressful time; add extra time for all involved and additional costs that would follow for attorneys, etc. This list goes on and on.
And during the period of outsourcing the current staff at the prison would be required to provide transport for prisoners and their staff number reduced in size to fit that requirement. I personally think there are too many jail staff members now and that should have been reduced long ago. Now is a good time to reevaluate their necessary number and apply that number to duty at the reconditioned jail.
I worked part-time at a jail in upstate New York many, many years ago (asked to fill in one day a week on average when not at my regular job) and it was the sheriff who was responsible for the jail. His deputies were nearby should the need arise at the jail with the sheriff's facility attached to the jail. Not sure how that would work in this matter but a consideration nevertheless.
I wonder if outsourcing is the only option. What might happen to the current jail building, which many in this county see as a historical site much in line with the courthouse? Would it be sold? Might it be converted by a buyer into a business facility? Or might it simply be torn down without any idea of the final disposition of the property?
My suggestion is simple:
Recondition the jail to meet upgrades and code requirements and outsource the prisoners in the meantime, preferably with rehabilitation needs done under a limited and contractual time-frame.
Thank you for your consideration and attention in this matter.
Mrs. Diane L. Logan