Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the politicization of crime budgets

Just yesterday I was happy that the DA's office got more money ($1.3 million more to be exact) to hire attorneys and support staff necessary to reduce the case load on current prosecutors. Republican DA Lohra Miller's plea was heard by a 5-4 Republican Democratic split. That was unfortuneate. Now comes worse news.
The Salt Lake County Council won't put a penny into the languishing lockup next year despite first-year Democratic Sheriff Jim Winder's insistence that the county soon will need it to relieve the population squeeze on the nearby maximum-security Adult Detention Center (ADC).
"I'm extremely frustrated," Winder said Tuesday. "The county is not taking into consideration our external partners - the cities, the judiciary - in making this decision."
The Republican-led council slammed the door on the deteriorating South Salt Lake jail Tuesday, denying the $5.9 million Winder sought to reopen the facility and the $610,000 that Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon had recommended for upgrades and repairs.
Democratic Councilman Randy Horiuchi urged his conservative colleagues - who opposed Oxbow funding on a 5-4 partisan vote - to keep the jail "battle ready."
But Republicans balked, saying a criminal-justice master plan should come first.
But the loss of Oxbow has the sheriff steamed.
"To say we are going to hold off and formulate another plan," Winder said, "does not address what is a critical need today."
We can argue about what causes more crime, plea agreements to lesser charges (meaning less time in jail/prision) or having the jail so full that it releases people picked up on warrants. I think you know where I stand on the debate.

But what is sad is that it shouldn't matter that Sherrif Winder is a Democrat or DA Miller is a Republican. The entire criminal justice system should be funded and planed in a thoughtful consistant manner. While budgeting is a zero sum game at the local level (because they cannot borrow outside of narrow bond issues), the math should not depend on what party you belong to. Shame on you County Council.

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