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Prisoners are there for the taking

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By Richard RoBards

Just about the same time that a story in this paper told of jail construction being a month behind, another story in another paper told of our state's prisons being overcrowded.

If that trend holds, then we can't get our jail completed soon enough.

Cha-ching.

That will be good news (if it's still true when our jail opens) to everyone who has a hand in seeing that the County's new facility breaks even or, better yet, turns a profit.

In a recent Lexington Herald-Leader story, a picture was painted of fiscal euphoria when the state plops down $30.94 a day to a county housing a state prisoner. We pay Marion County $27 a day per prisoner and I assume they're not charging us a break-even fee?

But that euphoria wasn't shared among the people living the prison life.

In Lincoln County where the jail has room for 72 prisoners, they're holding 24 state prisoners - bringing the daily prisoner roster to 101. That would be overcrowded in a bee colony.

Lincoln's jailer appreciates the revenue, but life is a little claustrophobic, according to the Herald-Leader story.

I'm not suggesting that a situation like that would be good here, but certainly with 217 available beds we could relieve overcrowding at several places. We could become a destination for prisoners. I can see the travel brochures now.

The state's 16 prisons are full and, if you read or watch the news on a regular basis, people aren't taking a stab at walking the straight and narrow. Jails are a lot like casket makers - it's a recession-proof business with a wide customer base.

We've read about the state's budget crisis, so there's no hope that a new prison will be built. There hasn't been a new prison opened in the last 10 years. So, it's quite likely that state prisoners will be taking up excess beds in Campbellsville.

County jails in the state house about 20,000 people annually, 10 percent more than their capacity, according to the Herald-Leader. Forty percent of those being housed are state inmates serving felony crimes.

We might as well get prepared. We're going to have people staying in our jail that have no connection, other than helping us pay our detention center mortgage, to our community.

The overcrowding doesn't seem to be arousing any sympathy from lawmakers. I'm sure the jail will have all the newest correctional amenities, but it will still be a jail.

People need to realize that they can work just as hard on the stuff that will keep them out of jail as the stuff they do to warrant imprisonment.

Crime may not pay for some prisoners, but it could make the County's cash register ring a little louder when we take on the state's problem people.