Our View: When push comes to shove

We have to hand it to Moffat County Jail officials. They certainly have chutzpah.

Earlier this month, jail officials announced they no longer would accept parole violators. By doing so, Moffat County Jail became the first in the state to make such a refusal.

The issue is the cost to house the inmates. Jail officials say the state should reimburse them for housing parole violators, who, after all, are supposed to be the state's problem.

Moffat County Jail must pay to house parole violators until their parole hearings, when the Department of Corrections takes responsibility for them, which, in some cases, can take months.

In November alone, housing parole violators cost the jail about $10,000, officials said.

The Colorado Department of Corrections said that could mean more criminals on the streets. County officials, however, say they will accept a parolee who commits a capital crime, such as murder.

We hope that the decision by Moffat County Jail officials is mostly meant to get the state's attention than. We also hope the state pays attention, and better still, pays a bigger share of the cost of jailing parolees.

It's hard to argue that the problem is the state's alone, because it's probably true that most of the people paroled to Moffat County came from Moffat County. At the same time, it's not Moffat County that decides when a convict gets released. The state does that and often does so as a way to manage the costs of its corrections system. Making the county pick up a big share of that expense falls under the ever-expanding category of unfunded programs that the state and federal government have for years been pushing down on local taxpayers. Those state and federal officials should not be surprised when local governments, accountable to their own taxpayers, start pushing back.

Ultimately, however, this is a public safety issue and everybody involved needs to keep that in mind.

It will matter a whole lot less who was paying the bills if this decision ends up getting somebody hurt.

Officials with the Department of Corrections last week said they hoped to meet with the county to find a solution. We hope they do, too.

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