Our Voice: Shorter jail time not what Pasco voters were sold

October 1, 2013 

Franklin Jail Work c

Workers disconnect the cables and unbolt the pivot points of a concrete exterior wall panel being lifted into place by a crane at the Franklin County Jail construction project in Pasco.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald

Time is money.

Especially when it comes to incarceration.

The Pasco Municipal Court judge is saving the city some money by allowing inmates to serve multiple sentences concurrently rather than consecutively.

That must be a good thing. Everyone likes to save money, right?

Not so fast.

In this instance, Pasco residents have a right to feel conflicted.

From a community safety standpoint, most people want to see those who break the law behind bars for an appropriate length of time.

Break two laws; get two sentences. And so on.

One after the other.

Serving sentences together almost encourages criminals to commit more crimes. It's like getting a freebie on the little ones.

If you only had to pay for the most expensive item in your grocery cart, you may as well fill it up with goods with a lesser price tag.

Aside from the fairness issue, there is a fiscal argument.

On the pro side: The city is saving money. In fact, the city has cut its prisoner bill almost in half during the past six years.

On the con side: The county (which owns the jails and depends on the city's business to help pay the bills) is losing money.

And everyone who lives in Pasco has a stake in Franklin County's budget. It seems ironic that this practice of essentially commuting some sentences is going on at the same time that the jail is being renovated and expanded.

To be fair, the Franklin County jail is overcrowded and badly outdated. No doubt it needed some updating, and this editorial board is on record as supporting the renovation.

However, one of the selling points of the recently approved public safety tax was that if voters didn't approve the three-tenths of one percent increase, criminals would be back on the street without serving their full sentence.

This is essentially what Pasco is doing with the concurrent sentencing.

It feels like a bait and switch.

After all, voters did approve the tax but some misdemeanor offenders are spending less time in lock up.

Perhaps the concurrent sentencing is only a temporary fix while the jail is being expanded.

We hope so.

It doesn't make sense to give criminals a free pass, especially when voters have agreed to fund the jail.

Also, we must not send the message that Pasco is soft on crime.

The boundary lines between our cities and counties are thin to start with. We must have a strong, united front against crime to protect Pasco and the Mid-Columbia as a whole.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service