County candidates oppose jail cap

Darin Moriki
Posted 9/27/12

The five Adams County commissioner candidates running for two seats in the general election railed against decisions made by the board to enact a …

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County candidates oppose jail cap

Posted

The five Adams County commissioner candidates running for two seats in the general election railed against decisions made by the board to enact a municipal jail cap.

The candidates — two running in District 1 and three running in District 2 — were responding to a question during a Sept. 18 forum about imposing a 30-inmate limit municipal cap, divided among nine cities in Adams County based on their population.

The cap was approved by the county commissioners in October 2011 to address Adams County Sheriff’s Office staff reductions and decreased county funding. It was enacted Jan. 1.

Currently, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office charges the nine cities, including Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, a $45 daily fee for inmates surpassing allotted numbers.

District 1 Democratic candidate Eva Henry said the jail caps put the Adams County district attorney and district court judges in difficult positions, because they must decide whether or not to send someone into jail based on budgetary constraints.

“I think the jail cap is really making our communities unsafe,” Henry said. “I think it is unfair and is double-dipping our county taxpayers.”

Her Republican opponent, Gary Mikes, attributed the decreased budget allocation for the Sheriff’s Office to a lack of jobs and county revenue sources.

“The jail runs very efficiently and is at capacity for the amount of money that we have to operate it but not at capacity for the facility itself,” Mikes said. “When we increase businesses and increase jobs, we can increase our tax base, and we can fund our jails, schools, parks and infrastructure.”

District 2 Democratic candidate Charles “Chaz” Tedesco toured the jail several months ago and said the county’s decreased budget has forced the Sheriff’s Office to cut staff and crowd more people into usable jail area.

To solve this problem, Tedesco said unproductive programs countywide should be scaled back or cut to fund other programs, such as the Sheriff Office’s outreach programs.

“These people right now are working in an unsafe environment, and it’s because of a budget that they’re trying to live with,” Tedesco said. “This budget is nothing new — it’s something that they’ve had to work with for a long time. They’ve had to do a lot more with a lot less, and we’re putting our officers in danger. We’re putting our officers in danger, so we have to figure out a way to make this work.”

His American Constitution opponent, James Fariello, agreed.

“It’s a tough question and a hard decision, but I know the cities are being charged for something that they shouldn’t be,” Fariello said. “Maybe it’s something the commissioners should get involved with a little more.”

District 2 Republican candidate Donnia Howell said the cap is not fair to citizens and said it should only be instituted once the jail has reached its maximum capacity.

“It’s not safe for our citizens to let criminals out on the street just because they reached a cap,” Howell said. “That jail has a 1,700 bed capacity and until we’re actually at that capacity, I see no reason to limit what prisoners or what criminals go there.”

While the candidates were united in placing a moratorium on the municipal jail cap, the candidates split over whether the county should be unionized.

Mikes and Howell said unions “have no place in government” and is not something they would not support for Adams County, if elected.

“I don’t agree that unions have a place in our government,” Howell said. “That’s really sad if you’re forced to pay into something like that, but especially as a commissioner, that is something that I would not want in our county government.”

The remaining three candidates, Fariello, Henry and Tedesco, disagreed and said the decision to unionize the county should be decided by county employees.

“If a person has a problem with a private company or government, I think it’s an individual’s personal right to have that choice,” Fariello said. “If they feel that a union can help them, that’s their choice and I respect that.”

The forum was hosted by the Adams County Aging Network.

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