Rehab programs need to be expanded at jail soon

Unfortunately, the drug epidemic does not seem to be slowing down. In turn, overcrowding at the Madison County Detention Center is not going away either.

Judge-Executive Reagan Taylor wants to “move from maintaining a place where we house inmates and create a place where we heal inmates.”

The Jail Task Force, which was commissioned by Taylor, recommends building a new jail in their report. With overcrowding a key issue, the lack of space limits the county’s ability to provide programs that could significantly reduce the number of repeat offenders, whether it is substance abuse prevention programs, educational training or faith-based counseling.

According to Jailer Doug Thomas, he and his staff are making the best of the room they have, when it comes to offering programs to inmates. The problem — they have only one room.

While Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and GED programs are great, only one of those can be going on at a time in the jail with one available room. That room is also where the barber cuts hair.

The good news is the county wants to fix this problem through either expanding the jail or building a new facility. The goal would be to have more rooms where, theoretically, the county could reduce the high-rate of repeat offenders by offering various rehabilitation programs.

We applaud that approach, but what are we going to do until a new jail is built or the current facility is expanded? In one if the quickest of timelines, it will still be a few years down the road.

Madison County currently has 328 inmates in a facility that was designed for 170 when it opened in 1990. We’re housing 42 inmates in other counties. Nearly 80 percent of defendants are charged with drug or drug-related crimes, and 70 percent are repeat offenders.

Several people sentenced recently have been regulars in the jail. A 32-year-old man has been booked into the MCDC 17 times since June 2004. A 29-year-old woman has been booked into the MCDC 12 times since August 2008.

We cannot afford to wait for a new or expanded facility. The county — along with Richmond and Berea — need ways to offer more programs now.

The task force’s report noted the county jail population is expected to reach 600 by the year 2020.

We can fix this problem, but we need, as Taylor has stated, bold ideas. Those bold ideas need to be on the table now so we — and those incarcerated — can have a brighter future.

The Richmond Register

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