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Crime numbers don't lie

Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler says crime statistics bear out the need for a new county jail. Ashland and Talent city leaders should consider that and reconsider their decision to block city their constituents from voting on a taxing district to pay for the project.

The two city councils were the only ones in the county to refuse Sickler’s request to refer the taxing district to voters, forcing the sheriff to postpone putting the measure on the November ballot. A county-wide district is needed to keep the cost as low as possible, and every community in the county benefits from the jail.

The existing jail, opened in 1981, is far too small for a county that numbers nearly 215,000 people. A 60-bed expansion in the jail’s basement raised the total capacity to 315 beds, but no further expansion is possible.

When the basement was closed in 2016 for a lack of staffing, reports of Part 1 crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and theft — rose 29% for the year in Ashland. When the basement beds reopened for part of 2017, Part 1 reports rose only 5%, and Part 1 and 2 crimes (Part 2 includes drugs, lower level assaults and DUII, among others) dropped 7% in 2018.

Opponents want money spent on the root causes of crime rather than incarceration. But the new jail would provide drug treatment, counseling and other services not possible now. The numbers show that adequate jail space means improved public safety — and more jail beds don’t mean more crime.

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