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Oklahoma County commissioner: New jail not the solution county needs

BY BRIAN MAUGHAN Published: January 12, 2013
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Economic issues aside, there are better and less costly ways to address the jail issue. First, we could build a one-story annex to the existing jail to house low-security inmates in dormitory-style settings, more modern medical and mental health units and ample secured outdoor exercise areas. This would alleviate federal concerns on the remaining deficiencies.

Second, we can make greater use of alternative sentencing such as the SHINE community service program that I developed in 2010. It costs nearly $50 a day to keep one person in jail. Instead, put that person to work on graffiti removal or litter pickup, as SHINE does, and keep jail populations to a more manageable level.

Third, the juvenile detention center doesn't face the same deficiency issues that confront the jail. Its relocation, while desirable in the long term because of neighboring commercial development, isn't an immediate necessity. We should separate the two issues and focus first on the jail.

Government's first responsibility is to the taxpayers. When faced with challenges, its first response should not be more taxes, but the careful weighing of every option.

Maughan, a Republican, is Oklahoma County District 2 commissioner.