Having to keep people behind bars as punishment for their misdeed and to protect law-abiding citizens is a sad but necessary fact of life.
Madison County opened a modern, new detention center more than 20 years ago that was a showcase for the state. For 14 of those years, Doug Thomas was a jail officer, including a significant time as assistant jailer.
Although voters will have two other good candidates on the ballot when they go to the polls Nov. 2, we believe Thomas’ long experience at the detention center makes the best choice to follow Ron Devere as jailer.
Madison County’s population has grown rapidly in the past 20 years, but the scourge of illegal drugs has done more to drive the number of inmates much higher than general population growth.
The challenge of maintaining a safe, orderly and humane environment for prisoners without creating a further strain on county finances will be a challenge for the next jailer.
Thomas has shown he can do the job well, and will not need to learn as he goes.
Republican Charlie King, a Richmond firefighter, and write-in candidate Andre Patterson, a retired state trooper who has been a deputy sheriff, both have honorable records of public service. Although both have some good ideas for jail management, neither King nor Patterson has experience in managing a detention center that is filled to capacity and sometimes overfilled.
When it had beds to spare and could take in funds by housing state prisoners, the detention center could pay for its operation or perhaps make money for the county. Those days are gone.
Even if state lawmakers allows judges more latitude to impose sentences that do not require incarceration of non-violent offenders, the local inmate population is still bound to expand.
That means the county will probably need to enlarge the detention center in the not-too-distant future. A proven manager will be needed to plan the expansion and manage it efficiently.
Madison County is fortunate to have a candidate with Thomas’ qualifications to fill that role, and we urge his election.