Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan (Point of View, Jan. 12) reflects common sense and political courage. Too often, we accept the assumptions made by government without question. The angst surrounding the jail needs to be pierced by someone like him willing to question the threshold premise of need. The voters of Oklahoma County and Oklahoma City are savvy enough to weigh the merits of local taxing initiatives. A new, joint adult and juvenile detention facility is the classic “non-starter.”
First, as Maughan points out, Sheriff John Whetsel has ably rectified all of the real deficiencies alleged by the feds; with aging jails dotting the entire country, it's hard to believe that Oklahoma County's is still in the feds' crosshairs. Secondly, the plans being designed by the vendor/consultant (which seeks to be hired to channel most of the $350 million in costs) contemplate a campus comprising adjacent detention facilities for adult criminals and juvenile offenders. What message of hope or rehabilitation does this send any juvenile offender?
Maughan advocates alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders through his SHINE initiative. New state legislation mandates a justice reinvestment initiative that follows this concept, if it's not undermined by officials charged to implement it. Maughan notes that rising federal taxes and shrinking paychecks don't bode well for a MAPs-like vote to fund these dual jails. I hope the county won't waste money to find out what they should already know.
Bert Belanger, Oklahoma City