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Councils miss the point

Ashland and Talent city councils apparently have decided their constituents shouldn’t be allowed to decide on a service district to build and operate a new Jackson County Jail. That effectively blocks a planned countywide vote in November.

The county’s 315-bed jail, built in 1981, is no longer adequate. Few argue with that, and the public complains frequently about the revolving door that puts arrestees back on the street within hours.

Opposing council members argue that jails don’t solve the root causes of crime: addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, lack of economic opportunity.

Few argue with that, either. But many of those who clamor for drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling and other services ignore the fact that those would all be available in the new jail, but not in the existing one because arrestees aren’t there long enough.

The service district would give the county dedicated funds to operate the new jail, not just build it. All cities will benefit from the new jail and all should share in the cost.

It’s not a choice between a new jail and treating the causes of crime. It’s a case of not being able to lock up people who have committed actual crimes against other people because the county’s 38-year-old facility is no longer big enough.

Refusing to build the jail will not magically eliminate the root causes of crime, rendering incarceration unnecessary. It will mean a continuation of the revolving door that sends offenders back onto the streets of our communities, making us all less safe.