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Twenty-eight people showed up at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office last Saturday afternoon to tour the jail.
Twenty-eight doesn’t seem like much compared to the population of Douglas County. And certainly 28 is not a majority of the registered voters. But it was encouraging to know that 28 people took the time to visit the jail and see for themselves what Sheriff Chris Degase has talking about at town hall meetings for the past month or so.
Some of us who have jobs that take us into the Sheriff’s Office on a regular basis — and occasionally into the jail’s cell block – tend to forget that the majority of the county’s citizens have never even seen the dispatch panel at the Sheriff’s Office, let alone the jail itself.
While no one expects it to look like the Mayberry jail on the Andy Griffith Show, a lot of people probably form opinions as to what the jail looks like based on what they see on television.
That’s sort of like believing a session of Circuit Court is conducted like it is on Law & Order. Or thinking crimes can be solved in 45 minutes like they do on CSI.
The fact that 28 people toured the jail on Saturday is no indication that they will all favor building a new justice center and jail on Nov. 2. And if they did all vote for it, they would need help from a lot more people to pass the two one-half cent sales tax proposals that will be on the November ballot.
Scheduling tours of the jail is no small matter. It creates a real security issue that the sheriff and his limited staff must deal with, especially with the jail configured like ours.
Still, Sheriff Degase should schedule another jail visit before the Nov. 2 election, and the number touring the jail should double the next time. You really need to see for yourself before you decide how you will vote on this very important issue.
No doubt, some of those who toured the jail last week believe it is adequate. After all, being locked up is not supposed to be a vacation. But it is important that folks want to see for themselves, and are willing to take 20 or 30 minutes and see for themselves what is really at stake here.
On the other hand, if local residents see the facility as being “inhumane” as we were told some did, one can only imagine how long it will be before an attorney gets the attention of a federal judge and either wins a costly lawsuit against the county or gets the facility shut down completely.
The people of Douglas County have a choice to make on Nov. 2.