LETTER: ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ shouldn’t decide county jail’s future

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To the editor:
I was dismayed to read about the deplorable conditions of the Oldham County Jail — and, while I think that topic begs the question of how things were let to become so bad in the first place, the bigger question still exists of how to proceed.
The current Oldham County jail has 115 beds, and yet it houses an average of only 30-35 Oldham County inmates.
We cannot fill the existing space to capacity with just the local offenders, so why are we trying to recruit more alleged lawbreakers into our county?
Does Oldham County really want to be in the “inmate” housing business?
The article outlines various options for the jail, including building a new space, with capacity for 250 inmates, and even includes cost estimates over a multi-year period.
What jail capacity are these numbers based on?
There is nothing in writing, no official commitment from the feds or any other agency that guarantees any minimum number of inmates — the paltry $38-a-day fee paid to Oldham County per federal inmate could go away at any time.
Can we really pin our financial hopes on nothing more than a gentleman’s agreement?
We need to either renovate the current space, which is obviously long overdue and a much less costly scenario for taxpayers, or we need to investigate the cost of hiring a private firm to handle county inmates.
It’s a very risky prospect to go with the “Field of Dreams” philosophy — that if we build it, they will come.
If the feds and other counties don’t end up bringing in inmates to fill the new jail to capacity, taxpayers are left responsible for the cost of powering and staffing a half-full building.
Bob Rogers
Mayor, Pewee Valley