The state and counties are wrestling with county jail funding. Recently, the counties looked to the Legislature for funding, reaoning that overuse of property tax revenue burdens property owners.

The Legislature agreed, offered funds and created a board without enforcement authority while placing performance requirements on the counties. All of them broke the agreement.

Additionally, the new law prohibited counties from investing in required infrastructure such as roof replacement and technology. With the state refusing to provide capital, the citizenry is left with the “forced rotting” of its county jails and a real contradiction.

Presently, an independent committee is developing an acceptable solution for both sides, and that’s the rub. Governments cannot have sides when they both represent the same citizen. Their responsibility is to determine a citizen-based solution without sides.

The root of this issue is incarceration. The question is: Who should perform the incarceration function?

While individual rights, citizen attitudes, the realism of recidivism rates and the process of assimilating imprisoned people into society are all changing, the stagnant, 16-county jail systems have struggled with statewide inconsistencies, non-common professional management and singular, outsourced contracts.

In my opinion, the Legislature should separate and then transfer the counties’ incarceration function to the Department of Corrections. The counties might be left with the responsibility for a holding/indictment center where the accused may remain until a court determines a resolution of their case.

Conversely, it is the incarceration function and its issues, especially mental health, which the counties are neither prepared to properly fund nor manage without state revenue. The Corrections Department already performs these functions, and this transfer would resolve the county-state funding and administrative issues.

What we don’t need is another state bureaucracy to oversee, monitor and enforce county jail functions. Make the incarceration function transfer; prevent a new bureaucratic tax expense.

Stephen Gorden

North Yarmouth

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