Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 33
Printed in the Warrensburg Gazette February 17, 2000

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

The private jail that's in progress over by Holden has raised some legislative interest. Sen. Rohrbach of California wants to completely ban them. The State Representatives serving Johnson County also have bills, but they take very different approaches to the matter. Rep. Deleta Williams has proposed a bill that would effectively prevent any new ones from opening, while not really regulating any that are now in operation. Rep. Jim Howerton, with Rep. Vicky Hartzler among the co-sponsors, proposes to regulate the operation of prisons, without substantial control of opening procedures. Let's compare these two:

HB1814, Rep. Williams' bill, requires anyone who wants to open a private jail to meet a long list of requirements before even buying land. The bill requires a 'well-publicized public hearing,' and submission to the local governmental body of detailed written plans & documentation for just about any aspect of the operation. It does not include criteria for evaluating the plans and documentation nor any specific requirement to abide by the plan once the jail is built. Of course, that wouldn't be a problem, because the 'well-publicized public hearing' is likely to prevent the sale of any land to the prison developer.

HB1928, sponsored by Reps. Howerton & Hartzler (among others) sets out legislative requirements for the actual operation of the private jail and gives the Department of Corrections the responsibility for promulgating rules and supervising them. It also clarifies such issues as use of force, employee qualifications, standards, and rights of local law enforcement, and liability.

Here's an interesting question. Now that it seems we're to have a privately owned & operated jail in Johnson County, will the County Commission do a cost comparison between contracting out and building a new jail?

Speaking of our legislators, did you get a survey from Rep. Williams? The one I saw states some problems or issues, including some 'analysis' and then asks a simple yes/no/no opinion question. The problem with this survey, besides the fact that it defines each 'problem' for you, is that it asks if government should do something about the problem without giving any idea of the options that government has to do something. For example, the choices on use of the tobacco settlement money don't include the option of return it to the people as tax relief; the question on legal blood alcohol limits (DWI) doesn't address the real problem, enforcement. So, every "Yes" answer essentially states that you want the State to spend more money (i.e., taxes) or extend State control over someone's personal or economic life.

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