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LETTER: Time to rethink how we police community

At the time of this writing, approximately 150 people are in the Clark County Detention Center. A little more than a third of them are from Clark County. These local prisoners, whom we must feed and care for, are so expensive that the state prisoners, which we receive substantial funding to keep, cannot make the jail profitable.

Perhaps jails should not be profitable.

In any case, ours isn’t. It never has been.

As many have pointed out, the Clark County Detention Center has sometimes generated revenue, but it has never been profitable. The Fiscal Court puts money into that jail every year. A lot of it.

Again, this is as it should be. These people are citizens of Clark County, and it is their rights that we have suspended for the term of their incarceration.   

Once these people have been imprisoned, it is our responsibility to care for them and see they are treated fairly until they can be released into society again.

The jailer is in charge of their safekeeping and moral rehabilitation, and Clark County has an excellent jailer in our elected representative Frank Doyle.

Doyle cannot control how many prisoners come to him. It is his responsibility to care for them and to advocate for them once they have come to him.

Once a prisoner is in his care, we must provide for them, and he must remind us of our responsibility to provide for them.

The fact that only a third of the inhabitants of the detention facility are Clark County residents, yet that is enough to overwhelm the economics of the system entirely, demonstrates that our system of incarceration is economically non-viable. 

Cutting funding further leads to inhumane treatment, greater danger to the staff and the prisoners and, inevitably, lawsuits that cost more than the funding saved.

The only rational solution is to make fewer prisoners.

We must rethink the way our community polices itself, as mass incarceration simply is no longer an option.

We must do more to keep our Clark County citizens out of jail, to preserve our American civil liberties and our freedom, and to keep people out where they can work, contribute to our economy and incidentally pay the taxes that we need to keep this county functioning.  

Winchester’s problem with over-incarceration stretches back beyond living memory, but it isn’t the jail’s fault. The jail just deals with the damage. 

The problem lies in the people putting so many folks in jail. Our detention center must be reserved for the truly dangerous, and it is up to us to make sure those are the only people we send there. 

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the only thing we can afford to do.

Geoff Sebesta, Winchester