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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Public Meeting On Local Jail Expansion Held Today

Some 50 concerned local citizens attended a meeting held today at the County Board of Supervisors chamber to hear plans for the study of alternatives to building a multimillion dollar new jail or expanding existing jail space here in Harrisonburg.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to hear three consultants with Mosely Architects, a Richmond based firm responsible to come up with a recommendation by December 31 of this year. One of the three members of the team, Michael Jones, is a mental health professional who is especially focused on looking for alternatives to a brick and mortar solution to jail overcrowding, but each of them sees the value of such outcomes.

Someone suggested the group set up a series of listening sessions in various parts of the City and County, which the consultants saw as a  worthwhile idea. Concern was also expressed about the need for more than a six month process in order to come up with a truly model plan.

When the new jail was built in 1994, it replaced a facility with a capacity of fewer than 75 inmates. While the new facility is labeled as a "regional" jail, it still serves mostly the same population as did the old one, and many of us are wondering why we are now needing space for over four times the 1994 number. Certainly our community hasn't grown at anywhere near that rate, nor has the rate of crime quadrupled during the last two decades.

I had to leave at 4 to go back to work, so any comments on the part of those who were there for the end of the meeting are welcome.

For an earlier post on this issue, check this link.
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