Commissioners view changes at jail
Stutsman County commissioners toured the Stutsman County Correctional Center Tuesday to see changes made since a 2012 study on the facility.
Jail consultant David Prachar made a number of sweeping recommendations in his 2012 report, many aimed at making the 94-person capacity jail safer and more efficient, and others aimed at eliminating its $440,000 budget deficit.
Two years later, many of the recommended changes have been made, such as implementing video visitation and keeping people out of secured areas.
“Down here all of our visitation is done,” said Darin Goter, deputy administrator of the jail, in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center.
That’s where the new video visitation monitors have been set up, allowing people to visit people in jail without passing through any secured areas. At the LEC, video visitation is free and can be done in the lobby. People can also visit jail inmates via video visitation from their own homes for 35 cents per minute.
“That is a new change that has helped us tremendously, cutting down people going (into the) jail,” Goter said.
An ATM and a machine allowing people to post bail have been placed in the LEC lobby, too.
Eventually, the electronic monitoring programs will be moved to unsecured areas on the LEC’s main floor, so that people under house arrest and those requiring breath testing won’t be in the secured area anymore either, Goter said.
“Our long-term goal is that these doors would be locked,” as that would remove the public from the secured part of the jail, said Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer.
Other changes have also been made. An old lineup room near the entrance of the jail on the second floor of the LEC has been turned into a room for attorney visits, and an old commissary room is now used as storage space for commissary items.
Commissioners saw those spaces, peeked into the laundry room where an inmate works on laundry all day long, and glanced into the kitchen, where food service company CBM prepares three meals a day with the help of a few inmates.
Goter explained the work release program, in which inmates pay a fee of $20 per day for up to 12 hours a day in order to leave the jail and work. Inmates on work release are outfitted with GPS bracelets so they can be tracked.
A kiosk inside the jail allows inmates to put money on cards that resemble credit cards, which can be used in the vending machines. Those vending machines have the usual complement of candy and snacks, along with packets of coffee, hot cocoa, ramen noodles and popcorn.
At the SCCC, cells are set up in a pod-like pattern, typically with two cells housing two inmates each, which have a shared common area with a shower, phone and kiosk in it. One pod, smaller than the rest, has two cells housing one inmate each.
Each night, the inmates are locked down into their cells until 6:30 a.m., when their televisions and phones also come on, Goter said.
Two new holding cells are being constructed in the jail, and while the walls look like they’re complete, the two small rooms still need paint, beds and ceilings.
“This is definitely going to be a huge, huge change for us,” Goter said.
The cells will be used for people being held for short periods of time — often eight to 12 hours — for reasons such as intoxication or fighting.
Goter said he tries not to keep people in holding cells any longer than necessary, because there’s nothing in them.
Commissioners also visited the control room, where at least one correctional officer is stationed at all times, with three officers on duty at the facility during the day, plus part-time correctional officers who fill in as needed.
Every hour, officers do a cell check.
Inmates are tracked on a white board representing every room of the jail, as well as being tracked on cameras. From the control room, Goter said, correctional officers can control the heat, lights and phones throughout the facility.
Commissioners saw the jail’s weight room, with its single large piece of exercising equipment. Goter said the jail is looking at adding more in the future — and went up onto the exercise yard on the roof.
“In the wintertime, they don’t like coming out here a lot,” Goter said. “It’s kinda breezy up here.”
From the roof, inmates have a good view of portions of Jamestown — only slightly obscured by two layers of chain-link fence and barbed wire. One wall is solid, so that inmates can play handball if they like.
“Well, you’ve done a nice job there, presenting everything,” Commissioner Mark Klose said following the tour, as commissioners left the secure sally port area to the unsecured office area.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org