To The Daily Sun,
I am proud to say that I am taking part in this year's Laconia Citizens Police Academy. This is something I highly recommend to any of you who truly would like to know of the arduous and fantastic job the police and their legions of volunteers are doing for this town.
However, that is not my reason for writing this letter. Last night we took a "field trip" and it was to the county jail.
There has be much back-and-forth about the condition of the jail, the overcrowding, the willingness of many to "patch it up" rather than spend money to build a new one or perhaps a total rehab, whatever. I believe all you armchair pundits who sit back and want a quick fix and a slap-dash patch that will fall apart in five years and don't want to spend tax dollars, take a tour. It was beyond disgusting in that building.
The last update I believe was in the 1990s, and they are still utilizing the part of the building built in the 1800s. They have no choice.
They are overcrowded. There is an iffy at best sewer system. The smell is beyond nasty in some areas. There are very few areas for classrooms as they have had to give those areas up to new inmates arriving. The gym that they once were able to use for the winter-month exercise, not only is that in the falling-down part of the building from the 1800s, but it is now the womens' section. Deplorable is not enough to describe that. Falling-down walls, damaged partially exposed pipes, and it's hotter than belief in that room. No control.
There is barely one room to use for classes, and yes they are trying very hard to rehab these men and women before their sentence is up. Many get their GED's, learn a new trade and they're taught by many wonderful people who are professionals in the fields of choice. They are doing everything to get them back to productive citizens. There is no lying in your bunk 24/7. They are required to participate. But there is nowhere to do that.
Okay, you've had just a small overview of what we saw and many are probably thinking, "So what, they're criminals" Okay, I'll let you have that petty thought. However, what about the fantastic staff who are working there so hard to help them? They also have to be in these conditions as well, and they have to deal with many, many nasty conditions a lot-diseases brought in, and more. They are to be commended and should be given the ability to work in sanitary conditions.
To the Belknap County Commission I implore you to find a way for a win-win solution for all of them. No matter what you think of these people, both good, bad and indifferent, they are human beings first, last and always — and that jail is disgusting.
There has to be a way to fix it. You must be willing to think outside the box and put some conscious thought into this matter. What about the old prison? What about other buildings on the State School grounds — something? And, yes, you will need to spend money. No matter how you look at it you will have to spend money. Why not spend it to make it worthy instead of just habitable?