Keep jails in public hands

Curry County, N.M., officials are considering a bad idea, which is to hire a private company to run their county jail.

At issue is a $9.9 million bond issue to be decided Aug. 6. It would finance construction of a new jail in downtown Clovis. I won’t comment on the wisdom of that site, although I will refer to an editorial in the Clovis News-Journal that says it’s a bad idea, given that downtown is a magnet for families who shop and eat there.

http://www.cnjonline.com/2013/07/27/new-jail-bond-hard-to-sell-with-poor-planning/

I’ll reserve my comments for the wisdom of farming this out to a private company. I’ve noted before I think that’s a bad idea. I’ve long had concerns about accountability and whether private companies can be held to the same strict accountability standards as public taxing authorities, such as cities and counties.

What goes on inside the jail walls ought to be the public’s business. Yes, I’m aware that jail standards would have to be met and that state officials would be able to monitor their activities.

But there seems to be an overarching public responsibility that needs to be honored. We pay police officers to arrest criminal suspects; we pay for courts to try them, and that includes prosecutors and on occasion we even pay defense counsel to represent the accused; and we ought to pay for the defendants’ housing in jail before and during their trial.

It ought to go with the territory.

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