We are replying to Michael Dougherty’s guest opinion printed in the Valley Courier on August 22. Mr. Dougherty is a candidate running for attorney general and took a tour of the County Detention Office last month.
Many people may have already forgotten what his opinion was about, but we are compelled to point out some facts that went unmentioned by Mr. Dougherty regarding funding and conditions at the jail.
First and foremost, there is no doubt the Alamosa County jail has been worn hard over the past 30 plus years. This is a facility that operates 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year. Many of its residents are those facing serious criminal charges including murder, sexual assault, burglary and other violent crimes. When the jail was built, it was intended to primarily hold people with minor offenses. This now seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Alamosa voters stepped up and recognized the distress on the jail as well as the courthouse and passed a one-cent sales tax in 2015. The tax goes towards adding an additional 76 beds to the jail and other interior improvements including a new kitchen and laundry area. The citizens of Alamosa County are investing over $9.5 million dollars (and it may go higher) to address the most critical needs. This is equivalent to over 110 percent of Alamosa County’s 2017 General Fund revenue.
Public safety has always been a concern of the commissioners and sheriff. The county general fund, where your property tax money goes, is currently allocating 90 percent of those dollars on public safety. This includes the jail and patrol. The 2018 budget request will creep up past $4.2 million. Since 2014, the public safety budget has grown by $1 million. To put this in perspective, the county revenues have only increased about $500,000. The sheriff’s office does not “make revenue” to offset the on-going costs and demand. More funding each year has gone towards outsourcing the inmates to other county facilities due to the overcrowding issues. This is extremely expensive.
The community has stepped up. Every purchase made in Alamosa is helping to improve the conditions, but it won’t be the cure. Until the community comes together to really tackle the drug addiction problem, we will continue to have these issues and more. The State of Colorado needs to recognize the inequity in having county government fund almost all of the district attorney’s office. Whereas the State of Colorado funds the entire public defender’s office. Until then, Alamosa County and many other counties will continue to deal with issues of overcrowding and lack of resources for prosecution.
On behalf of the Alamosa County Commissioners and all the elected officials, we thank the citizens for their continued support in addressing the community issue.
Alamosa Board of County Commissioners
Darius Allen, Helen Sigmond, & Michael Yohn