To the editor:
I am writing to encourage the eligible citizens of Dallas County to vote “Yes” on May 2 and support the bond referendum that will make possible a new Dallas County Jail and Law Enforcement Center.
The current Dallas County Jail was built in 1988. Just as a matter of perspective, let’s look at some of the things that were going on in 1988.
The year 1988 was a general election year. Republicans George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle were running against Democrats Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen in the U.S. presidential election, a race which would result in a Republican victory and, of course, the Dan Quayle “Potatoe” incident.
Mikhail Gorbachev was guiding the Soviet Union through a new economic era. Remember perestroika and glasnost?
Speaking of the Soviet Union, they had troops in Afghanistan fighting a war that had lasted nearly 10 years in 1988. A man named Osama bin Laden and some of his closest allies started an organization called Al Qaeda to counter the Soviet threat.
The U.S. Senate heard testimony from a NASA scientist that global warming as we know it had begun.
The Iran-Iraq war drew to a close.
The number one song in 1988 was “Faith” by George Michael. Ford Escort took best-selling car bragging rights for the year.
The internet was still in its adolescence but had just suffered from its first virus.
Closer to home, the Dallas County Jail was being built in a county that had a population of 27,000 people. The Dallas County Sheriff’s office tallied a total of 28 employees.
I was 13 years old and spent most of that summer riding around Perry on a beautiful, mint-green CW bicycle, harassing the citizenry and most likely jacked-up on obscene amount of Mountain Dew.
I am now 42 years old. The bicycle has been lost to history, and the internet is now woven into even the most humdrum aspects of our lives. Ford stopped making the Escort. Global warming is still in the news and as important as ever.
Osama bin Laden and many of his allies have been killed or captured after launching the 9/11 attacks. The Russians are back in the news, but not because of glasnost and perestroika. And Dan Quayle, well, he’s still trying to work out how to get out from under that potato incident.
Dallas County now has more than 80,000 people. The Dallas County Sheriff’s office now employs 77 individuals. Dallas County is one of the fastest growing counties not just in Iowa but the nation.
The point of all this is that much has changed in the world in the nearly 30 years since the current Dallas County Jail was built. The current jail is outdated, worn and simply overcrowded. The existing jail ranks 36th out of 98 county jails in Iowa, with only 48 allowed prisoner beds.
In 2018, when an exemption granted by the Iowa Department of Corrections expires, the current jail will rank 49th out of 98 county jails, with an even more meager 36 allowed beds.
The average daily prisoner population in the Dallas County Jail: 53 inmates. That means the prisoners must be housed elsewhere, and the County pays dearly to do so — to the tune of approximately $500,000 per year.
The amount of money spent on transportation of prisoners to other facilities will soon outweigh the cost of designing and building a new facility, not to mention the risk posed to the safety of both the prisoners and the officers who transport them to and from other facilities.
The existing jail will be renovated and transformed into a functioning extension of the judicial branch of Dallas County, making responsible use of existing County assets. The proposed Law Enforcement Center also includes a kitchen that will reduce the costs associated with prisoner meals.
Here’s the bottom line: this jail is designed to save money. It is a responsibly designed and well-planned facility that will reduce overall costs for Dallas County and is designed to grow with the county.
So let’s invest in the future of this great county and vote yes on May 2 to approve the new Dallas County Jail and Law Enforcement Center.