A local citizens’ group, Stop the Jail, gathered in front of the County Building on Fair Street Monday morning, to rally against a new jail in Prescott. A small crowd of activists numbering between 80 and 100, held signs and conducted an orderly march in front of the building while the Board of Supervisors met inside to discuss construction contracts and push forward with plans to break ground on a 144 bed jail and Judicial Center as early as next month.
Former County Assessor Pam Pearsall, one of the organizers of the event, spoke to those assembled, denouncing the current Board of Supervisors for raising property taxes and forging ahead with the project in the face of a history of voter opposition. In 2008 and again in 2014, county voters rejected a sales tax increase to build a new jail in Prescott.
Another local activist and event organizer, MaryBeth Hrin-Campbell, remarked that opposition to the jail is a bipartisan issue. Former Democrat County Chairman, Toni Denis, was present along with other jail opponents. “We have people here this morning from across the political spectrum” Hrin remarked. “We may oppose the jail for different reasons. But what unites us is anger at the arrogance of the Board of Supervisors for not submitting this matter to the voters.” To cheers from the assembled she concluded, “Vote Them Out!”
Also in attendance were several Board of Supervisor Candidates who have campaigned against the jail. They included Harry Oberg, running against Sherrie Hanna for an open seat in District 1, Steve Irwin, who is challenging an appointed supervisor and jail supporter Mary Mallory in District 5, and Jane Anderson, who is challenging longtime jail advocate Craig Brown in District 4.
County Attorney Candidate David Stringer was also at the rally. He has made opposition to the jail a centerpiece of his campaign. Stringer said many people opposed to the jail have asked him if it can be stopped. “Of course we can stop it”, Stringer stated. “It may be costly to fix the Board’s mistake. But not as costly as building and staffing a jail we don’t need. This is a democracy. Of course we can stop this jail.”
The Board of Supervisor Candidates and Stringer hand delivered open letters of protest to the Board of Supervisors last week. They indicated that to date, no response has been received. None of the Supervisors appeared to address the citizens assembled in protest.