News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2006


Chain-link, razor, barbed wire one goofy solution

When he was mayor, Julian Price had his eye on the old Decatur Transit property on First Avenue Southeast because he thought it would be the ideal site for a civic/convention center.

And, he thought it would be the foundation for renewing the old business district.

But the county bought the property for a larger jail before Mr. Price could muster support and money for his project.

Mayor Price wasn't alone in thinking the property would serve downtown better as a civic/convention center than as a jail. But we have the jail today and to most people's astonishment, it is an attractive addition to downtown. It won't be, however, if the Morgan County Commission goes ahead and puts up chain-link fence topped with barbed and razor wire. If that happens, the jail complex will take on the appearance of the outside wall of Baghdad's Green Zone.

The county's people have had enough of the ins and outs of staffing the jail. Now they must suffer through the controversy of a fence, which may not be needed at all. Even if it is, there is no definitive answer that an attractive wrought iron fence won't allay the concerns that Sheriff Greg Bartlett expressed about security. There is always the option of covering the exercise areas with wire mesh.

The County Commission must exhaust all alternatives to a chain link fence topped with barbed and razor wire to enclose the jail. If the fence becomes reality, given all the other controversy over the $23 million jail, its members are going to really look like the gang that can't shoot straight.

That fence simply makes no sense, given the alternatives available and the low level of risk of inmates escaping.

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