A joint regional jail, which is being discussed by Madison and Henry county council members, is an innovative way to solve the overcrowding problem, but only if the benefits outweigh the costs.

Overcrowding in jails poses a threat to the health and safety of inmates as well as the staff.

However, there are several logistical questions that must be answered before such a project can move forward.

In order to benefit both counties, the jail would need to be placed roughly halfway between the two county seats. Even then, transportation costs would increase as inmates from each county would have to be transported for their court dates.

This would not only cost the counties money but would take up valuable time from the police departments.

It may make sense to maintain a temporary holding facility near the courthouse for inmates who are due in court, but this would amount to the county maintaining two jails.

An option under discussion is the hiring of a private company to build and run a jail facility, a concept strongly opposed by sheriffs Richard McCorkle and Scott Mellinger and Madison County prosecutor Rodney Cummings.

We agree with Cummings that those who operate correctional facilities need to be accountable to the public.

We commend the officials of Madison and Henry counties for exploring innovative solutions to the overcrowding problem, but a regional jail is one that should be considered with caution.
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