Arapahoe County Ballot Issue 1A to build a new jail with a property tax won't go uncontested, as the group NO on 1A kicked off Wednesday.
The Coalition for Smarter Public Safety Spending contends it's cheaper to keep people out of jail in community programs than locking more of them up in a 1,600-bed facility that's expected to cost more than $460 million.
"Rather than spending nearly half a billion dollars on a bigger jail, the county should invest in community-based programs that prevent crimes from being committed in the first place," said Juston Cooper, director of the NO on 1A Campaign and deputy director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, an Aurora-based organization works to reduce recidivism.
The ballot measure asks voters to approve a 3.4 mill levy increase, or about $68 a year for the average Arapahoe County home, about $380,000.
Safer Arapahoe County, the group supporting the measure, says the 33-year-old jail for 1,100 inmates is overcrowded and in disrepair
In addition to CCJRC, the opposition includes the ACLU of Colorado, American Friends Service Committee, Colorado Black Women for Political Action, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Colorado People's Alliance, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado.
They contend money raised by the ballot question should instead be used to fund mental health services and other treatment to reduce recidivism.
“People should not have to go to jail to access mental health and addiction services,” Cooper said in the statement Wednesday. “An overwhelming majority of voters agree Arapahoe County would be safer if it invested in more community-based services rather than building a new jail. 1A may be well-intentioned, but it is the wrong approach. Arapahoe can do better.”