Proposed sales tax hike to fix overcrowded St. Clair County Jail

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ST. CLAIR COUNTY, IL (KTVI)-- The St. Clair County Sheriff says his over crowed jail is making life more dangerous for citizens and his corrections officers.  He’s asking people to support an increase in the county sales tax.  If a person spent $8 there would be an addition 2 penny tax.  It’s not a lot of money but the sheriff said the ¼ of a percent tax is enough to solve a lot of problems.

Sheriff Richard Watson said every week he is forced to release as many as 50 prisoners because the jail is overcrowded. Officials try to release people charged with misdemeanors.  If Sheriff Watson does not let prisoners go early and make room in the jail, lawsuits will be filed and the state or the feds will lower the boom. Still, he doesn’t like it and yes he says you should be worried.  Watson said, “When we’re releasing criminals back into society and were not housing them here and making them accountable, you should.”

The jail was built in 1970 and there have been expansions. Right now it houses 130 more people than it was built for. The kitchen is falling apart and overused.  When too many people are put together, things get dangerous for the correction officers.  Watson said, “That’s when these fights happen that when things get a little edgy inside the jail.”  He knows asking citizens to pay 25 cents more on a $100 purchase can be an uphill battle when the money is for people accused of crimes.   Watson concluded, “We need to keep these people off the streets.”

The election is the day after St. Patrick ’s Day. The sheriff is probably hoping he doesn’t need the luck of the Irish to get enough voters to support his cause.  In all the ¼ of a penny tax would generate $37 million for the jail expansion.

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