Imagine losing your freedom, not being able to go home tonight, eat what you want, do what you want. That would be bad enough without being in a crowded, unsanitary and unsafe place. The Whatcom County jail was built in 1986. Though suitable at the time, this aging building is no longer adequate for number of people it regularly holds; often over 200 percent of its maximum capacity of 148. Crowding increases tensions, aggravates mental problems and spreads disease. Working conditions are awful for the staff. If a fire occurred, I believe many people could not exit or be evacuated in time to save their lives. This includes staff, inmates and volunteers!
Any one of us is capable of a moment's bad judgment that would land us in jail, particularly when we are young. Many people in jail today come from our neighborhoods and schools. They could even be our family and friends. Most of them can straighten out their lives if given a chance. In a new jail there would be room for medical care addressing mental and physical health, education and work programs and adequate room for visitors and guest speakers.
We hope to build a new jail in the next several years. Thanks to our new county executive, we are starting to plan now. Please support this urgently needed project as it evolves.