Archived Opinion

Spend county money compassionately

Spend county money compassionately

To the Editor:

Our Haywood county government is planning to build a new jail at a cost of over $14 million. Important questions have been raised about this project. One of the most important  is “What can we do to prevent another new jail being needed in ten years?” 

Given the increasing cost of land and construction, this will probably cost the taxpayers of Haywood county more than the current price of $14 million.

And further, is putting more folks in jail, especially non violent offenders, the best way to spend our tax money.

Sheriff Greg Christopher and Judge Brad Letts, among others, have done great work in dealing with the ever-increasing  jail population. Programs like Pathways and the pre-trial release program have both helped people who have stepped outside the law to get their lives back to together and some to even avoid future misdeeds.

But nevertheless, criminal behaviors continue to multiply, and expanding the prison facility may be unavoidable. But perhaps as we look at that $14 million price tag we should think about other uses for at least a fraction of that money. I speak of programs that might keep people — young and not so young — from turning to criminal behavior in the first place.

First among these needs might be additional school counselors and therapist. Can sixth- and seventh-graders, many from abusive and neglectful homes be identified and helped as they exhibit problematic behaviors? Can early drug use be discouraged by timely intervention? I think so.

Further, have we really dealt with recidivism — the return to crime after a prison term has been served? What are the programs that have been successful in other communities and what would be the cost? Let’s find out! Drug abuse, mental health problems and homelessness — these  are  concerns in folks relapsing into criminality that can often be helped with proper resources.

So I ask our commissioners to spend our money thoughtfully and compassionately. 

Stephen Wall, MD


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