It seems that the folks in Delaware County have a “field of dreams” situation going on.
Back in 1997 the voters of Delaware County approved a half-cent increase in the sales tax to fund a new jail.
Their new jail costing $3.8 million, was designed to hold 61 prisoners and opened for business in year 2000.
Now, here it is 2008 and the Delaware County Public Facilities Authority has voted unanimously to build a new, new jail.
This one costing $11.4 million and large enough to hold 228 prisoners.
Reportedly the population of the Delaware County Jail has ranged from 68 to 81 over the past several months.
So, in a county where in 1997 they “under-built” a jail on the cheap, they now wish to “over-build” a jail on the not-so-cheap.
Why ya’ reckon that is?
Why build a jail almost three-times that required to house the current maximum jail population?
The obvious answer is that the folks in Delaware County want to operate a “rent-a-jail”, taking in state prisoners and possibly even out of state prisoners on a paying basis.
Evidently the folks behind this field of dreams have not heard of the problems other “rent-a-jail” operations have run into in Oklahoma.
Changes in Department of Corrections policies, transferring the responsibilities for inmate medical costs to the counties have several counties in a financial bind, including Tulsa County which was recently sued by local hospitals demanding payment for treating pre-existing conditions of inmates housed in the county jail.
The voters of Delaware County need to consider whether they really want to get into the “rent-a-jail business”, as most Oklahoma Counties that have tried it have found it is not the money maker promised but rather a continual financial drain on the county.
Delaware County residents under-built the last jail.
This time they need to consider carefully whether they wish to over-build.
But one thing is certain.
Build it – they will come.
Question is, can you afford it???