The Jackson County Jail has been failing state inspections since 2014, and eventually, our community will suffer if nothing is done.

If we do not bring our county jail into compliance with state standards, taxpayers will eventually be forced to pick up the tab to house inmates elsewhere, which would mean, over the course of time, increased expense and the loss of local jobs. Beyond that, our current facility, which is 50 years old and was most likely built on the cheap back in the day, poses safety risks to jail staff because of its cramped spaces, and it does not allow for adequate separation of prisoners, one of the many deficiencies the state inspector has pointed out.

Obviously, something has to change. Either we are going to choose a solution or, at some point in the future, circumstances will choose one for us.

As citizens of Jackson County, we should keep that in mind next Tuesday when we go to the polls to decide if our county should borrow funds to build a new jail.

Twice in the past three years voters have defeated referendums for a new jail by narrow margins, each time achieving an approval rate of more than 50%, but less than the 60% required for a taxpayer funded project to move forward. Voters sent a message to those planning the jail, and here at your hometown newspaper, we believe that message was heard.

Planners have trimmed the project to lessen the future burden on taxpayers while trying to address the county’s needs, and that has not gone unnoticed. This is the first time your hometown newspaper has felt comfortable publicly endorsing the project, and it’s also the first time Jackson County Farm Bureau has encouraged its members to vote “yes.”

While almost no one enjoys paying taxes, this is a project we believe is necessary. We believe it will save Jackson County money in the long run and make our jail safer for those who work there – at a price we can afford.