Thursday, June 04, 2009

A New Jail for Sarasota County?

There's been lots of jail talk these days in Sarasota County; The current jail is over capacity. Now some local leaders are trying to find the money and a place for a new one. But not everyone is on board.
From Fruitville Road to Sumter Boulevard...even Buchan Airport in Englewood. Those are just a few of the 15 or so sites submitted and being discussed by a local committee, rating possible new jail sites. "We are moving geographically around the county," says Criminal Justice Policy Holder for the county Wayne Applebee.

The group meets every other week. First criteria is government-owned land or land submitted by property owners. 30 acres are wanted. Then there is the whole location thing. "The access, the ownership, development and construction costs, environmental impacts, costs going into the future by where its location is."

Thursday, Sarasota County and city commissioners were briefed on the latest. While the whole county is being explored, it seems north county might not be the best option. "We are probably looking mid-county or south county...the North Port area," says Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. Some North Port commissioners have said they're not opposed to the jail there.

One location many have suggested is in mid-county, off Knight's Trail, right next to the dump. It's centrally located with plenty of land. However, there was already an attempt to put a jail near there in the past, says Barbetta. "It was probably the largest planning commission ever. Over 600 people showed up when the jail was proposed. It was at least nine or ten years ago...vehement opposition."

But also Barbetta says he's not sure he wants to spend the estimated $60 million to dump inmates anywhere. "Is something wrong with our system that we keep building these monstrosity-sized jails? Is the problem deeper and is it more social service related?"

The county is also looking for land for a community corrections center. That's different than the jail. "We are in need of a smaller community corrections facility for light to medium security; Somewhere in the county, but we don't want to impact the neighborhoods."

Future site selections that might not be popular when it turns out to be in your back yard. "It's a tough problem for all communities. I just think if we put money in bricks and mortar it's not really the solution."

The current plan calls for enough room to house nearly 1,000 more inmates by the year 2035 in Sarasota County. The group searching for sites says they would like to have their top picks by the fall.

You can go to the site rating meeting for yourself. They are every other Wednesday at the Sandra Sims Terry Community Center in Laurel. The next meeting is June 17th.

As Reported by ABC Channel 7

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