Letter to the editor: Jail’s COVID outbreak symptomatic of deeper issue

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To the editor:

The report in the Daily Reporter of 25 new cases of COVID in the inmates at the county jail exposes other unmentioned problems there ("Jail reports COVID-19 outbreak," April 30, Page A1).

During the short time during COVID when only dangerous persons were jailed upon arrest, and others were instead given simply a summons to appear in court at a certain time, two good things were accomplished: (1) the spread of COVID in the jail was stopped; and (2) the cost to taxpayers of services to the larger number of inmates was significantly reduced.

And it still gave justice; if you were found guilty when you appeared you were then penalized.

So why did Sheriff Brad Burkhart restart jailing so many again? My belief is that with the greatly reduced number of inmates, he realized that he could not justify the 23 new jailers that the county council gave him; and, secondly, he could not even justify the construction of the very expensive new jail, since the inmate count was reduced to a number that could easily be held in the old jail.

This new COVID episode has exposed the fact that the cost of Hancock County’s whole system of justice could have been greatly reduced if we had not been unnecessarily jailing persons who had not yet been found guilty.

Grant Cripe