Few will argue that the county doesn’t need a new jail facility. On the other hand, voters have twice recognized they’re being sold a bill of goods when it comes to the operational levy. Now as we enter proponents’ third bite at the apple, a familiar pattern once again presents. The slick mailers with stock photos and lofty promises have returned, but there still isn’t a plan for how the Sheriff’s Office intends to spend millions of dollars in operational money.

Common sense would lead one to believe that if the county replaces an inefficient jail where it spends $150-250k per year to ship inmates elsewhere with a well-designed, high-tech facility, present operational costs should decrease, right? Let us also not forget that the Legislature just passed a huge package of bills designed to reduce over-incarceration and reinforce restorative justice. Proponents always point to needs such as mental health and pre-trial services, but specifics never arrive. The first bond plan literally didn’t contain a word about these services outside the glossy mailers. When backers replace the slush fund with an articulable plan for rehabilitative interventions, they’ll finally win my yes vote.

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Nick Domitrovich

Helena

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