Are the voters of Tangipahoa Parish ready to vote for a new tax for a new jail at the cost of $80 million? If so, the sales taxes for Amite and Independence will be 10 percent, while Hammond, Ponchatoula, Kentwood, Roseland, Tangipahoa and Tickfaw will see a 9.5 percent tax. Are you ready to pay this and mandatory health insurance starting in January? How will anyone on a fixed income and working families afford these extra costs?
Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Instead of being No. 1 in incarceration, we should work toward being No. 1 in rehabilitation. While Gov. Jerry Brown has been ordered to reduce the prison population in California, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans has been under pressure “to limit the size of the new prison, which incarcerates more of its people than any other city in this country and worldwide,” according to the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, a network of community groups.
Yet, Tangipahoa Parish feels the need to take an “If you build it, they will come” position. Something is wrong when colleges are cut, and an effort to put people away is the order of the day.
The federal government is eager to issue grants for rehabilitation. Why not take the 37.4 percent of those first-time offenders in our Tangipahoa jail and rehabilitate them? It is cost-effective to do so. We need to start with education as a road to better choices for our future citizens. Invest in education. We need to pursue mandatory military service for high school graduates or one year stateside service. Volunteerism fosters good citizenship and should be instilled in our youth.
Did you know that the biggest nursing home in Louisiana is Angola? We cannot dispose of our future generations by continuing to build jails. It is a vicious cycle which needs to stop now. Do you prefer productive, working citizens who contribute to society or those we fund to spend years in jail?
Join me in a change for the better. Contact your elected officials about how we proceed in the 21st century with our responsibility in dealing with our future citizens. Join me in voting no on Oct. 19 against the 1/2-cent sales tax for the jail. And remember, early voting is Oct. 5-12 for those of you out of town for the LSU vs. Ole Miss game!
Our alternatives to enable productive citizens are dependent upon your vote.
Cecilia A. Giannobile