Don’t sink more funds into jails for women

by Peter Wagner, April 27, 2006

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA) April 27, 2006

To the editor:

Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe says his new women’s jail will be full
when it opens next year, so he wants another $6 million to add 56 more
cells. Our local leaders should say no. The new women’s jail will hold women
from all four counties of western Massachusetts.

Building bigger jail after bigger jail is not the solution to crime and it
might even make things worse. Adding extra capacity to a jail should be a
last resort, because those empty cells will reduce the pressure for judges
and legislators to consider cost-effective and rehabilitative alternative
sentences for people who pose no threat to the community.

Rather than build now, the prudent thing to do is to force Sheriff Ashe to
”make do” for a few years with the 240 cells already under construction.

Before lawmakers grant Ashe’s request, they should remember that 56 cells
will cost $2.4 million a year to operate. That money will no longer be
available to fund schools, drug treatment or other far more beneficial
programs.

Bringing more state investment to western Massachusetts is a good goal, but
dumping it into jails is the last thing we can afford.

Peter Wagner
Northampton

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