Pubdate: Fri, 12 Mar 2004
Source: Jackson Sun News (TN)
Copyright: 2004 The Jackson Sun
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


The rejection of a plan to solve Gibson County's jail overcrowding problem 
by expanding the existing facility raises some interesting questions about 
what's next. This is especially true in light of another action taken at 
Monday's meeting, in which commissioners voted to approve a resolution 
asking the state to provide mandatory jail time for those found guilty of 
selling, manufacturing or possessing methamphetamine. The two actions are 
contradictory. You can't demand more mandatory jail time but refuse to 
address jail overcrowding issues. Clearly, alternatives are needed.

Currently, Gibson County's jail is certified to hold 151 prisoners. But the 
jail has been averaging about 200 inmates a day. That has prompted action 
from the Tennessee Corrections Institute, which threatened last year to 
yank the jail's certification. TCI only backed off after commissioners 
passed a resolution promising to fix the problems.

Any way you look at it, Gibson County commissioners are going to have to 
spend money. Something must be done about the jail - whether that means 
expanding the existing facility or building a new one. But commissioners 
can, and should, do more.

Gibson County already is on the right track with its drug court. 
Commissioners should next look at expanding treatment options for those 
addicted to drugs, including methamphetamine.

Focusing on treatment instead of incarceration makes sense for a host of 
reasons. It has been estimated by some that 80 percent of all crimes are 
somehow drug-related. So treating the addiction would help ease 
overcrowding by reducing the number of inmates.

Focusing on treatment also makes sense because it presents the addict with 
an opportunity to change, and to become a productive member of society 
again. And it makes sense because in the long run, it would save the county 

Commissioners should look at alternative sentencing options in other 
instances, too. Giving community service or probation to minor or 
first-time offenders makes a lot more sense than locking them up when that 
room is so desperately needed for more hardened criminals.

Commissioners can't have it both ways. It's time they stopped straddling 
the fence and made the tough choices they were elected to make.
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