Editor, Times-Union:

In 2018, I publicly supported and voted for Kyle Dukes in the Republican primary and general election. Because I believe that new leadership at the Sheriff’s Office is essential to re-establish order at the county jail, I will be voting in this year’s Republican primary for Jim Smith.

There has been much discussion during this primary campaign regarding damage done by inmates in the jail. As a member of the County Council, I have a front-row seat on this issue that most voters do not. Early in my tenure, I was contacted by a county maintenance employee who was frustrated by a serious uptick in inmate damage and a lack of concern from the administration at the Sheriff’s Office. He reported that inmates were routinely smashing lights out, ripping the interiors of lights out, breaking off sprinkler heads, smashing out windows with inch-thick glass, and flooding their cell blocks, among other things. He also reported that the administration was not heeding his concerns.

At the maintenance staffs’ request, I joined them in the jail myself for an inspection. What I saw was appalling.  There was extensive graffiti in the cell blocks, rampant trash accumulation and an amount of vandalism of public property that was mind-boggling. It appeared as though the inmates had been given free-reign in the blocks.

The damage done by the inmates has not been limited to the jail itself. Since our jail is connected to the Justice Building, the consequences of the administration’s lack of control have literally spilled over into other public areas – flooding initiated in the jail causing damage to important public records in the basement and to a judge’s chambers, among other areas.

These issues have largely avoided media attention, but I assure you that they are real. As a council, our role is to appropriate funds to fix the damage and improve the facility – which we have done time and time again, at a much higher cost to the taxpayer than was ever the case before.  But the problems still persist.

The response of the sheriff and his supporters during the campaign has been to point out that damage is occurring in other jails across the country. That may be the case, but that is not an invitation to continue with the status quo. The voters expect us to find solutions to problems, not throw up our hands and say they’re unsolvable.

Jim Smith has impressed me with his command of the facts, his plan for the jail, and most of all, his willingness to listen. On May 3, I hope that you’ll join me in taking the first step toward getting this problem under control by selecting Jim Smith as the Republican nominee for sheriff.

Mike Long

Kosciusko County Council

District 2

Warsaw, via email