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Letters to the Editor

Please share thoughts about proposed jail

The proposed Ogle County Jail would house 180 to 200 inmates, almost double the current capacity. Who are these inmates, and why are their numbers growing?

I learned from Sheriff VanVickle that they are Ogle County and federal pretrial detainees, not yet convicted of the crime for which they have been charged. The county receives payment to house federal detainees, and their number varies based on available beds. At the time of our conversation, seven federal detainees were in the jail. A former county bailiff told me that jail inmates may also include county residents serving short sentences.

According to Sheriff VanVickle, Ogle County began tracking crime statistics in 2001, but due to technical difficulties, almost no data from before 2009 is available. The design for the new jail is based on “projected need over the next several decades,” but those projections are actually based on just 8 years of county statistics plus FBI statistics – the same ones that show crime rates decreasing.

Gov. Rauner has appointed a committee to look at reducing the prison population by 25 percent. Lawmakers nationwide are working to reduce the inmate population, not increase it. By building such a large jail, we are moving backward.

Since it is illogical to build a jail this large, why is it being proposed? As a moneymaker for the county? If so, is this what the majority of residents want?

We all want a safe community and a place to house inmates that is safe and livable. The questions that have not yet been adequately addressed are, why so big, and why downtown?

The County Board decided not to put this proposal to a referendum due to the cost. Given the impact of this decision, it seems a very small price to pay. Attend the next County Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and share your thoughts.

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