Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

County jail millage round-up

31. January 2005 • Murph
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The Ann Arbor News today ran a massive story on the proposed Washtenaw County jail millage. The proposed 30 year 0.75 mill is predicted to raise $314 million dollars, $48.1 million of which is dedicated construction for increased jail capacity, and will be decided by County voters on 22 February.

The summary of the article is that almost everyone seems to like the idea of increasing alternative treatment programs and programs for mentally ill inmates; the disagreement is over whether the jail needs to be expanded by 200 beds (approximately a 60% capacity increase).

County officials and the Committee for Public Safety and Justice advocacy group have been spending a lot of time and energy pitching the idea that increased capacity is necessary for the alternative programs to work. Skeptics contend that the increased capacity will simply provide the temptation for County officials to use it, removing the pressure to find effective alternatives. A group formed by Scio Township trustee Chuck Ream in opposition to the millage, the No Giant Jail Committee, does not appear to have a website.

More information on the proposed jail millage:
> The County’s Criminal Justice Collaborative Council page includes the County’s case for the jail.
> The Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce has adopted an official policy supporting the millage, which includes bullet lists of arguments for and against it.

  1. Until the Washtenaw Country court system has a clearly independent oversight body (not mutual admiration society friends nominated/appointed to that oversight body) there should be no funds made available to the Washtenaw County Court system.
       —Srini    Feb. 7 '05 - 01:44PM    #
  2. Srini, do you have more information on this? I don’t know anything about the court’s oversight methods.

    Note also the hard sell in the A2 News yesterday, with Criminals Love Crowded Jail appearing on the front page above the fold.
       —Murph    Feb. 7 '05 - 02:07PM    #
  3. I don’t want to be a simpleton about this, but the article in the A2 News was pretty convincing to me. To date, I’ve found the arguments against jail expansion to be pretty lame.
       —Ben    Feb. 9 '05 - 03:55PM    #
  4. The reason not to vote to fund expansion: With expansion, there’s no reason to fix systemic problems. With expansion, the prison industrialists benefit at the expense of the taxpayer. With expansion, there’s no reason to delineate between violent and non-violent offenders with regard to early release. That and expanding the jails doesn’t actually fight crime.
    I voted no on the new high school, and I’m voting no on the new prison.
       —js    Feb. 9 '05 - 09:42PM    #
  5. I’m with js; “Without a bigger jail, alternative treatments won’t work,” does not constitute a commitment to alternative treatments.

    Especially not in a town where, “Without a greenbelt, increasing residential density won’t be effective,” changes so quickly, upon passage of a greenbelt initiative, into, “Nobody ever said that having a greenbelt meant we would have to raise density in the city – the idea is for the townships to build in a more clustered fashion.”

    I’ll vote no on this; they can then make some changes to the system to guarantee that prison expansion is in the service of alternative treatment (and will not be used as a reason not to implement alternative treatment), and bring back a new millage proposal, and then I’ll vote yes.

    Of course, I expect it’ll pass despite my voting against it, but that’s no reason to not vote against it.
       —Murph    Feb. 10 '05 - 11:57PM    #