Glad Alpena has a voice on jail reform

About 20% of the county’s general fund budget goes to running the Sheriff’s Office and county jail, reporter Steve Schulwitz told us in a front-page story Saturday.

Alpena County Commissioner Bill Peterson says that’s not a sustainable figure, and officials could be forced to cut or reduce non-mandated services — such as road patrol or maintenance on county-owned property and equipment — if those costs continue to climb.

“It can impact about anything in the budget,” Peterson told Schulwitz.

That’s why we are glad to see Peterson named by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force, which is looking for ways to both reduce the costly burden of corrections on county budgets and better serve communities.

Among the items the task force is discussing are ways to get inmates with mental health issues out of jail and to the proper treatment and ways to get non-violent offenders out of jail if they can’t make bail.

District Court Judge Thomas LaCross told Schulwitz he doesn’t make sentencing or bail decisions based on cost.

Nor should he.

But it’s important for our criminal justice officials to think outside the box for ways to continue to keep the public safe while also protecting taxpayers’ investments in public safety.

And we’re glad Alpena has a voice in that discussion.



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