Our View: Proactive approach key for jail costs

Published 8:04 am Monday, January 30, 2017

For decades, Batman has jumped from the pages of comic books and television screens in his fight to get bad guys off the streets of Gotham. However, his war against crime wouldn’t be possible without the limitless deep pockets of millionaire alter ego Bruce Wayne funding the cleanup efforts.

In the real world, fighting crime — and housing criminals after they are arrested — is not nearly as simple.

As with most things in this world, it always comes down to money.

Clark County officials are well aware of this conundrum as they have spent recent days talking about jail expenses that have grown by about $1 million over the past two years.

Although jail officials have done a good job of seeking outside funding that means the county’s cost actually decreased by approximately $135,000 over that time period, the overall expenses continue to creep up and create cash flow issues when it comes to paying bills.

It is fair to say there has been somewhat of a perfect storm of circumstances that has caused this situation including always increasing operational costs, flaws with the state funding process and staffing challenges.

We are glad to see fiscal court and jail officials working together to be proactive before this could ever reach crisis levels.

Far too many communities get to the end of the fiscal year and realize they have well overspent the budget when it comes to law enforcement and jail operations, putting a huge burden on the local government and, ultimately, the taxpayers.

We applaud the commitment by all parties to first and foremost improve communication, which will be critical to the future.

There seemed to be some disagreement as to staffing levels approved and where these funds would come from. Good communication will clean this up quickly.

The state must also look closely at its payment system. Roughly 60 percent of the average of 229 prisoners housed in the jail on any given day are from the state.

We urge lawmakers and the governor to closely analyze whether or not the reimbursement levels are truly sufficient to cover costs and to overhaul the payment system so there is never a case of slow funding creating an additional burden on local governments.

That is simply unacceptable.

We appreciate jailer Frank Doyle and his staff for the willingness to tackle this issue and are excited to see the results as they take on this challenge to scrutinize every aspect of the operation, making changes where they are needed and operating within the budget provided by the fiscal court.

Enforcing our laws is critical to making our community a great place to live. The jail is a necessary and vital step between an arrest and the legal system.

Unfortunately, there won’t be a millionaire swooping in to help pay for the fight against crime so county leaders and jail officials have to be the superheroes helping to save the taxpayers.