Monday, November 19, 2012

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part CIX): Tax measure to finance operation of jail fails

Voters in Newton County rejected the 0.75% sales and use tax that was on the November ballot, a tax that would have raised funds for the operation and maintenance of a new county jail.  Read more on the history of this issue hereherehere and here. The vote for the tax was 1,681, while 1,934 voters cast ballots against it.

And so the long-awaited new jail, finally completed in August this year with funds being raised by a sales tax passed by voters in 2010, will remain shuttered.  While I have remained unconvinced that building the new jail was a good idea, for reasons articulated here, it seems terribly wasteful--now that the jail is built--to have it sit unused.

I noted a quarter page ad in the Oct. 24, 2012 issue of the Newton County Times, paid for by "Committee for Newton County Jail."  It says:

Your Vote Counts
Vote Yes for 0.75% Sales & Use Tax For Operation & Maintenance of the Jail
This tax will equal 3/4 of a penny per dollar

  • Stop the flow of Newton County Taxpayers money to Boone County
  • Reduce costs to taxpayers for fuel and officers transporting
  • Create jobs in Newton County
  • Reduce backlog of hundreds of warrants we can't actively pursue due to housing cost
  • Keep Newton County inmates in Newton County
  • Easier for families to visit without having to go to Boone County
  • Provide work crews for projects throughout the county, i.e., roadside litter, cemeteries, community buildings and county owned properties
  • Stop alternative sentencing--incarcerate criminals that would otherwise receive no jail time
  • Deter crime because there will be consequences for their actions
  • The jail has been built with taxpayer money--Now we need to fund it.
* * * 
The ad is interesting that it appeals repeatedly to the economic interests of the county, e.g., jobs and law enforcement costs, while also pitting Newton County against Boone County.  Also interesting is the appeal to the families of prisoners, who now must travel to neighboring Boone County to visit their loved ones.  Of course, it also appeals to the "law and order" crowd by presenting the jail as an alternative to "alternative sentencing," and by touting the deterrent value of the jail.    

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