Jail Tax is Changing Lives, Restoring Families, Strengthening Communities

There is no doubt that programs funded through the Jail Tax have changed lives.

This November, voters in Coconino County will have a choice.

On behalf of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, I am pleased to report our in-custody Coconino County Jail programs are working and showing great results. An important outcome is that many of our community members have received the support they needed, and are being reunited with their families and integrated back into our communities. Many have found rewarding work and have stayed on the path of recovery from addiction. The changes we’ve seen are significant and have occurred since the half-cent Jail Tax took effect in 2007.

Known as the County Jail District Excise Tax (sales tax), the Jail Tax has funded in-custody programs that have provided substance abuse and mental health treatment and helped people gain life skills and job training, receive education, practice mindfulness, adopt healthy habits and connect with resources that will support them in their transition to a life outside of jail.

The County Jail system has experienced significant success with these programs in place, particularly with the substance-abuse program EXODUS. This multi-faceted voluntary 90-day course teaches participants about how drugs impact the body and brain, and helps inmates see a different life for themselves, free of addiction. It offers meditative practices, communication and parenting skills, and expressive arts. It provides tools for managing emotions like anger, shame and grief. Case managers say they see a marked difference in those who go through the EXODUS program and those who don’t.

Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll says these programs have had a game-changing effect in the vicious cycle of alcohol and drug abuse, crime and the return to jail. “Substance abuse is a serious problem and a recurring one for our County Criminal Justice System,” he said. “However, with Jail Tax-funded programs, we’ve witnessed a dramatic and inspirational shift.”

The National Institute of Corrections reports that, on a national average, 70% of inmates return to jail in places where there is no in-custody drug and alcohol abuse program. But with EXODUS in our County Jail, the scenario has flipped; only 30% or fewer people who have participated in the program have returned to jail.

“EXODUS, along with enhanced educational programs, job training and life skills, makes valuable use of time spent in custody,” said Sheriff Driscoll. “With funding from the Jail Tax, jail becomes a place where people can heal, reset their lives and have hope for an addiction-free future. They leave jail with emotional and social tools, job skills, a renewed outlook and optimism for a life outside of jail.”

By having such programs in place, there are other benefits as well. For example, the county received grant funding this summer to establish Pathways to Community, a program that continues valuable support for those exiting the jail system, including for housing, food, clothes, job training, addiction recovery or mental health.

In addition, funding generated by the Jail Tax covers most of the jail operating costs, which includes staffing, maintenance, renovations, medical expenses and food. This support means the $22 million needed to run the jail each year does not have to come from somewhere else, like the County General Fund or local city budgets.

The half-cent sales tax (50 cents on a $100 purchase) is collected on the same taxable purchases as the state sales tax, such as goods retail and services, as well as lodging and restaurant charges. Household groceries are not taxed and approximately one-third of the Jail Tax is paid by visitors and non-residents because they benefit from the Jail Tax as well.

There is no doubt that programs funded through the Jail Tax have changed lives. Individuals and families are healing, neighborhoods are safer against drug-related crimes and the jail population has decreased. In addition, most of the operating costs necessary for running the County Jail are paid for through the Jail Tax.

The current term for the Jail Tax will expire on June 30, 2027. On the General Election ballot, voters are being asked whether to extend the County Jail District Excise Tax by 25 years, to be in effect through Dec. 31, 2051.

The question will appear as Proposition 445: Shall the Coconino County Jail District Board of Directors be authorized to extend the term of the existing County Jail District Excise Tax (sales tax), of one half-cent ($.005) by twenty-five years?

The Jail District Sales Tax Publicity Pamphlet currently is arriving in the mail. It includes letters from county residents, frequently asked questions and locations for assigned polling places.

Remember, the last day to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 11. Early voting begins Wednesday, Oct. 12. And, the polls will be open from 6 am to 7 pm, Tuesday, Nov. 8.

For more information about the Jail District Sales Tax Extension, Proposition 445, please go to coconino.az.gov/jailtax. FBN

By Patrice Horstman

For more information related to voting in the November election, contact the Coconino County Elections Office at 928-679-7860 or visit coconino.az.gov/elections.

Patrice Horstman is chair of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

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