I am often amused when uninformed citizens read an article and instead of picking up the phone or sending an email to ask some relevant follow-up questions, they simply spill their emotions in a letter to the editor. So while I respect Mr. Campion and his exercise of the First Amendment, I will trouble him a little further with some pesky things called facts.
Last month the Summit County Jail booked in 133 inmates: 103 males and 30 females. The average daily population in the jail was 36 inmates; of these inmates, six of them had immigration holds placed on them. We served a total of 3,483 individual meals at an average cost of $2.99 per meal.
So on to your issues, Mr. Campion. First, when inmates get "out of line," as you call it, we don't "kick their ass." However, recently an inmate assaulted another inmate and he had the unfortunate displeasure of being subdued using a Taser. He is now spending the rest of his stay with us confined to a jail cell 23 hours a day. He gets out one hour a day to shower, and he was also charged with third-degree assault.
In regard to inmates working, yes Mr. Campion, all convicted inmates have to work. Here are just a few examples from last month's statistics:
Inmate Hours Worked: 141.4 hours at the landfill, 148.5 hours at the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, 33 hours on the sheriff's office grounds, and 29.5 hours on county building and grounds.
Inmates work for nonprofit entities and for you, the taxpayer. And yes, they spend a lot of time shoveling snow and picking up trash. A couple of years ago, these inmates were part of something they affectionately called "Minor's March" (catchy name). During the summer months they "marched" from one end of Highway 9 to the other - from Hoosier Pass to the Grand County line - picking up trash the whole way.
Inmates also go to a farm on the Eastern Plains every summer and pick fresh vegetables. We use these vegetables to offset our food costs and donate the rest to various food banks throughout the county.
In reference to your "getting fat" remarks, please remember this: for many of these individuals, jail is the first time in a long time that they are clean and sober. We are also required by law to provide a certain number of calories per day per inmate.
Mr. Campion, while you may disagree, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights extends to inmates as well. Yes, they lose some of those rights when they are incarcerated; for instance, while I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, inmates are not allowed to have guns in jail (for obvious reasons). They also lose their Fourth Amendment right while incarcerated, which means they and their cell can be searched at any time without probable cause. However, inmates do have the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment), which also extends to them the right to decent food.
Finally, I will say this: many of the inmates in the Summit County Jail have not been convicted of a crime. They are awaiting trial, and in this amazing place we call the United States of America, all individuals are innocent until proven guilty. These people are not animals, Mr. Campion, they are human beings. It is our hope that through our programs (anger management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, job placement services, etc.), we will return them to the outside world far better equipped to be productive members of society than when they entered our walls.
In closing, Mr. Campion if you would like to take a tour of our jail I would be honored to be your host. Don't be alarmed, but I will also buy you lunch. Yes, it will be prepared and served by inmates!
John G. Minor,
Summit County Sheriff