People it’s a Task Force not a decision machine

So there is definitely some disconnect here with the the Criminal Justice Task Force and the community. Maybe I am the one to blame for this problem. Maybe the newspaper did not do a good job of explaining to people everything behind it. I think some people fail to realize the Task Force is a suggestion box from the County Commissioners. They aren’t making decisions.

Why was it created? I think the purpose was to evaluate cost and look how other places around operate their jail and criminal justice systems. Brown County has a serious problem and I think this Task Force is a good first step in solving it, but they are in no way the final step in the problem. They are only the beginning of the process.

Now, I know some people may believe the Task Force was chosen secretly in some dark room in a basement somewhere but no, it wasn’t at all. The County Commissioners had a list of names, probably 50 or so, to call and ask if they wanted to be on the Task Force. Probably as many people declined the opportunity as accepted. The Commissioners sought balance – politically, geographically, and the kind of jobs people had. It is why the Common Pleas Administrator, Assistant Prosecutor, and a former County Deputy all on the Task Force. The Commissioners went through the list calling people to see who wanted to accept the duty of the Task Force. It was actually quite a boring process – nothing shady – no back room deals or anything. Just a list, some phone calls, and a lot of help from their clerks in the office.

As for the numbers….people will tell you it is misleading or will tell you they are inaccurate because they remember how it was when they worked at the department. Here is the issue, not every cost comes from the Sheriff’s budget. The County itself pays for a lot of the jail and the Sheriff never sees it. Imagine if the Sheriff’s Department had to pay their water bill or electric bill with only what they had in their budget. They couldn’t afford workers at that point, but it is in fact a cost to the jail, even if it is an unseen cost. The jail itself cost about $2 million per year to operate and can only hold 38 inmates. I am not expert on cost analysis, but that seems staggering. Now if you can hold 70+ inmates, the cost are curbed significantly and are more in-line with what the County is paying elsewhere.

The moral of the story is these guys are a suggestion box. They are tasked with looking at all angles with a new set of eyes and bring new ideas to the table to see what can be done. They are not deciding what the County is going to do. It is a lot easier to look at ideas when the cost has been laid out in front of you verses trying to backtrack and complete the same thing over again. This process will take time and lots of it. Could be a year, could be two or three years to evaluate all the options.

I know this much, the Task Force is comprised of people who want what is best for the County and the citizens. They care about making sure money is used the best it can be while still getting the best use of law enforcement. They understand the struggles of investigating crimes while people are housed in Butler County. They understand the needs for jobs in the community and understand the importance of our law enforcement and corrections officers. The are working diligently to come up with the best ideas they can while keeping the best interests of the people in mind. I am sure everyone on the Task Force would tell you the same thing.

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By Brian Durham

bdurham@civitasmedia.com

Brian Durham is Editor of the News Democrat/Ripley Bee