Addressing jail is doing right by taxpayers

Doing the right thing is usually not the easiest thing, or the most popular thing. We see that on an all-too-regular basis with politicians in Washington.

That is why the five commissioners of the Houghton County Board deserve thanks and praise for doing the right thing in renovating and expanding the County Jail, which in recent times has become overcrowded and lacks even the bare minimum living conditions to provide humane treatments to its inmates — many of whom, it must be stressed, are incarcerated on pre-trial charges of a crime and are considered innocent in the eyes of the law.

Yet even prisoners who are justly found guilty in court of law and are serving a sentence should not be forced to live in squalor and subhuman conditions, which in effect amounts to torture and cruel punishment, expressly forbidden in the American rule of law and civilized society as a whole.

Since the sheriff declared a state of emergency at the jail earlier this year, the County Board has been earnestly addressing the issue and has agreed to leave the ultimate decision to the voters in a referendum in 2018.

This newspaper’s coverage has documented the aging jail’s substandard conditions and inadequate capacity to treat the least of the population among us, and the County Board has been diligent in developing a plan that is the most fiscally responsible to taxpayers. As it should be, the final decision will be left up to the people of Houghton County.

Although the will of the people is not infallible, when voters are adequately informed with the truth on an issue coming before them on the ballot, they almost always do the right thing and make the right decision. We trust that will happen in this case.