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Letters, Nov. 15

Council vote on jail

There are concerns about the design and funding of the proposed Jail Service District, a tax levy measure that the Ashland City Council will be considering at its next meeting. We urge council members to show stronger leadership in making sure this new facility will include the provision of ongoing substantive mental health services to jail inmates, in appropriate settings and with adequate staffing.

Mental health advocates, in particular NAMI SO, have expressed concerns about the inflexible language of the proposed ballot measure, which designates all funding raised in new property taxes simply to “Jail Operation” — without requiring any dedicated funding for mental health facilities and services. They have been told that the ballot language cannot be any more specific. Really?

The joint Jail Services District, if approved by voters, will be funded by property taxes. Ashland’s property values are considerably higher than the other cities in the proposed district. Ashland’s taxes would therefore be contributing a very large proportion of the funding for the new jail. The City Council should make sure that contribution reflects our taxpayers’ community values.

The city of Ashland should not vote to put this very costly measure on the county-wide ballot until it is rewritten to include specific mental health funding. Citizen oversight and transparency should also be part of the new jail management.

Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition. Jackson County has a long way to go to achieve a comprehensive continuum of mental health care — and jails do play a key part. Ashland should not miss this opportunity to leverage its substantial funding role as the ballot measure is considered.

Laurie True and Mark Goodman-Morris

Ashland United Church of Christ, Witness and Justice Team

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