I agree with those who see current conditions in the Whatcom County jail as a human rights issue, but I believe such a problem is never a reason to build more jails, in fact, it makes a strong case for the opposite. Rather than relieving overcrowding by expanding the county’s jail system, let us focus our time and effort on keeping people away from incarceration and making sure that, if they do go to jail, they never go back.
I believe the county has more to lose by moving the current jail 10 miles away than just the increased costs and risks of transporting inmates back and forth. Take a trip to prison-industry towns like Attica, New York, or Susanville, California, and you will see that these institutions stigmatize a community much more than they develop it. If the county pays a private company to build 500 new cells, I believe that both the company and our politicians will do whatever they can to fill them, rather than addressing the underlying issues that drive people into these cells. Why would we want our county’s largest project ever to be a place of punishment instead of something we can be proud of that directly benefits the community?
The urgency with which some have pushed past LEED certification and for the sales tax increase to fund the jail suggests to me they also have concerns about Whatcom residents accepting this plan if provided with all the facts. Let’s keep new jails out of Whatcom County!