I am absolutely disgusted by the commission’s recent 2-2 vote to put on hold the design phase of a new jail. As a recent graduate of Leadership Forsyth I had the distinct privilege and opportunity to get an up-close look at our county’s infrastructure and support services.
One of our class days we were scheduled to tour the Forsyth County jail. Upon our arrival we were told that due to overcrowded conditions and limited staffing for this day that it would not be safe for us to tour the facility. We learned that there are consistently 280-323 inmates at any given time.
Because the Forsyth County jail, in one of the fastest growing counties in our nation, only has 134 beds, the county has to farm out the remaining 150-200 inmates to surrounding counties. In 2007 alone, Forsyth County paid out over $2.1 million to other counties to house our inmates. This is a 234 percent increase over the last 3 years.
In addition to overcrowded conditions, in 2007 the sheriff’s office had to transport 9,917 times, accumulating 168,886 miles on vehicles, costing taxpayers $38,000 in fuel charges alone! In 2007, there were 6,419 inmates booked into our facility. This is a 47 percent increase over 2006.
Did I mention that there are also only seven to nine deputies on duty under ideal conditions to deal with the masses of criminal offenders? And that’s not the half of it.
I believe that Sheriff Paxton is doing everything he can with the resources he is allotted to keep our community and his deputies safe. Somehow, somewhere the true urgency and necessity of this issue has been lost and the public needs a good education on the issue to ensure voter support of a new jail, now.
A big, safe jail isn’t as glamorous as a grand new shopping mall, but the need is as essential as electricity — and without it isn’t possible for our community to continue to enjoy the prosperity and safety we have become accustomed to.
BOC, please do the right thing. Build us a new jail, now. And if you’re still not sure what to do about the jail construction issue walk over there this afternoon and ask for a tour.
Lisa Headrick Meyer