Let’s Not Swallow Red Herrings

An Answer to Yavapai County Treasurer, Chip Davis’ Editorial Regarding the Prescott Jail

by Columnist Alexandra Piacenza, The Daily Courier, posted on July 26, 2020

On the heels of the public outcry to Save the Dells, the Prescott area has produced another local bipartisan effort, NO NEW JAIL. Regardless of party affiliation, or lack thereof, citizens of all stripes are coming together to protest the building of a new County Jail in Prescott. The defensive response by the County is that the jail’s been in the works for a decade or more and is nothing new.

That response is a red herring pure and simple – a distraction intended to direct attention away from the real issues at hand. How long or how hard they’ve tried to get this project going in the past has absolutely nothing to do with why it shouldn’t be built at this moment in time.

an answer to Yavapai County Treasurer, Chip Davis' editorial regarding the Prescott Jail

It would be easy to conclude the current Board of Supervisors And the candidates for the Board who support the jail are asleep at the wheel. Do they really think Yavapai County is going to emerge unscathed from the financial devastation being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic? Have they forgotten the 2008 recession? Citizens who may not regain employment for years already need support for food and housing. Medical bills are piling up snowbanks of debt. Shouldn’t we be using public funds to directly protect the financial health of the community and its members?

However, more likely than being totally clueless, Board members must see a benefit to themselves and their supporters in awarding contracts to build the new jail. Proponents point out that a local jail for adults could save $1 million per year in the cost of transporting inmates to the Camp Verde Jail. That means it would take 70 years or so for savings to recoup the cost to build the jail. I’m betting we’ll see some new County projects involving plenty of construction contracts and proposed property tax increases before then, despite the fact that attempts to fund the jail that way have failed twice.

In the meantime, a transportation system costing a fraction of jail construction and ongoing maintenance costs could be helping rural consumers patronize local businesses, get to badly needed jobs and to healthcare facilities. Instead of implementing this simple cost-effective way to support our economy, the Board continues to shunt it to the backburner.

At the recent protest at the Juvenile Detention Center it was pointed out that the jail will bring felons to town and increase local crime. Keeping impressionable if wayward youth in their home community to be rehabilitated makes sense.  Having a major center of adult incarceration in the middle of the community is at the very least distasteful. Welcome to everyone’s hometown, be sure to visit Prison Central just a short drive from the local Walmart.

However, in my mind, the bigger issue is the Board’s “criminal” neglect of present realities. For the Board to discount the extreme situation that is literally blowing up all around them in the State of Arizona is frankly flabbergasting.  Clearly, the recent protest and organizing efforts attest to the fact that neither being conservative or liberal prevents concerned citizens from seeing how foolish this kind of expenditure is in the midst of a pandemic-caused recession.

While I’m chagrinned to see such lack of judgment on the part of our Board of Supervisors, I’m very proud to be part of a community capable of “multi-partisan” action. Friends from both sides (or no side) of the aisle recognize something unreasonable is happening and they’re doing something about it. That is truly Democracy in action and the right way to clear the plate of unsavory red herrings.

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