By Morgan Jones
November ballot measures for jail construction were more successful in 2004 than in the past two Novembers, Correctional News reports. This year, tax or bond measures for jails were approved by local voters at a rate of 63 percent, with seven of 11 tax or bond measures passing.
Ballot measures for new construction or upgrades for county detention facilities passed at a rate of about 50 percent in November 2003 and by 37.5 percent in November 2002. In 2002, 19 local jail proposals appeared on ballots nationwide, with 11 going before voters in both 2003 and 2004.
Conventional wisdom says that city and county jail ballots are less likely to pass in November elections, when voter turnout exceeds off-season elections. “That many measures succeeded in the face of record turnouts for a heated presidential election seems to contradict this belief,” says Eli Gage, publisher of Correctional News. But counties and cities are asking for less than in previous years.
Despite a strong showing, the size of the projects before voters were not as large or as comprehensive as in 2002, when voters approved three new jails with a cost of over $100 million each. The largest jail-only measure to pass in 2003 was $24.6 million, while this November the largest was $46.6 million in Whatcom County, Wash. No other jail proposal exceeded $30 million this November.
2004 BALLOT RESULTS
PASSED – Clayton County, Iowa
$2.95 million bond issue to fund a new 40-bed facility.
PASSED – Davis County, Utah
$24.8 million bond issue for a 400-bed jail expansion.
FAILED – Elmore County, Idaho
$7.5 million bond issue for jail construction.
DELAYED – Gogebic County, Mich.
Tax levy for $4.1 million, 45-bed jail pushed back to May 2005.
FAILED – Hall County, Neb.
$29.8 million bond issue for jail construction.
FAILED – Kittitas County, Wash.
Sales tax measure for a $15 million, 222-bed jail and remodeled courthouse.
PASSED – Mason City, Iowa
$19.5 million public safety complex, including a new city jail.
PASSED – Rockdale County, Ga.
Sales tax including $25.9 million for a 400-bed jail expansion.
PASSED – Scott County, Iowa
Tax increase to provide $29.7 million for jail renovation and expansion.
PASSED – Springfield, Ore.
City bond measure providing $28.7 million for a new public safety facility with a 100-bed jail.
FAILED – Washington County, Iowa
$4.5 million bond issue to fund a new 40-bed facility.
PASSED – Whatcom County, Wash.
Sales tax increase to fund $46.6 million, 700-bed jail. Also included is a temporary 150-bed facility.