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DENVER-Mayor Wellington Webb is throwing his weight behind building a new $300-million jail. Members of the city council and neighborhood activists working on what is known as the Justice Center are thrilled by the support Webb gave it at his recent State of the City Address. Voters will decide in November on a tax increase for the jail.

Three other proposals seeking another $200 million also tried to get on the ballot. But many council members and others worried that if the voters had to choose between $500 million in projects, they’d vote down the biggest one, for the jail.

“Our jail facilities are antiquated,” Webb says. “Most were built 50 years ago with a capacity only two-thirds of our current need. As Denver has grown, and as our crime fighting has become more effective, our jails have become more crowded and more dangerous. Our police, prosecutors and courts no longer always have an empty cell when they make an arrest or gain a conviction. We cannot jeopardize the safety of our people by allowing individuals who should be behind bars to stalk our community’s streets.”

A task force is studying five sites for the jail. Webb says the facility will be, “a contemporary piece of architecture that will house courts and a jail.”

“No one wants to pay for a jail,” Webb says. “No one wants to be neighbor to a jail. But Denver is not merely a collection of faceless, unconnected subdivisions. We are a city… we are a community.”

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