Let Criminals Help Pay for their Incarceration
By Michael Kleen
Back in July 2003, Winnebago County levied a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a brand-new, $142 million jail, which opened in 2007. Today, that jail is overflowing with prisoners, and local politicians are looking to spend an unexpected increase in tax revenue on hiring more guards. I believe that levying a county sales tax to pay for a new jail was a mistake from the onset, and that we need to find an alternative means of funding the jail while reducing its overall cost.
Winnebago County remains one of the worst counties in the state in terms of crime rate, and the county’s solution to this problem has been to simply lock criminals up and throw away the key. In this endeavor, our new jail has been a success. Crime in Winnebago County dropped 15 percent from 2008 to 2009, and according to Sheriff Dick Meyers, unincorporated Winnebago County saw a 20.9 percent reduction in crime over the past several years. At the same time, the average daily population in the jail has climbed more than 27.8 percent.
This is a very expensive way of reducing crime, one that will cost the county millions of dollars to sustain over the long term. Furthermore, a larger jail filled with more prisoners fails to address the root causes of crime, which means we will need to continue to fill the jail to keep crime rates down.
Posted on January 4, 2012, in Columns and tagged County Sales Tax, Illinois, Jail Overcrowding, Public Safety, Public Safety Tax, Rockford, Sales Taxes, Sheriff Dick Meyers, Tax on Crime, Winnebago County, Winnebago County Jail. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.