Sheriff balances budget, safety at detention center

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SHERIDAN — Sheridan County taxpayers spent $2,639,820 on the Sheridan County Detention Center operations in 2017, more than any other item on the Sheridan County general fund expense budget. For those not anticipating a trip to jail anytime soon, looking at booking and incarceration processes may help taxpayers understand how the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office spends those dollars.

“It’s a burden on our taxpayers that we take seriously and try and diminish as much as possible,” Sheridan County Sheriff Allen Thompson said. “But we have to provide [food and other] services to our inmates.”

Sheridan County contracts out medical and food services but takes care of safety, security, management and transfers internally.

Cpl. Charlie Gibbons, a detention officer in charge of safety and security of the jail, helps with the booking process daily. While the process itself is routine, each day looks different than the one before. Gibbons has learned in his tenure at SCSO that he must stay adaptable and learn how to navigate many different job titles.

“I’m going from booking somebody in to breaking up a fight to having to serve meals to handing out mail to answering questions about court,” Gibbons explained.

“There’s so much that can happen, and that’s just through one walkthrough of the jail.”

Detention officers’ contact with inmates starts at the booking process, when police officers or sheriff’s deputies take the arrested person into the detention center on the second floor of the joint law enforcement building. They complete the inmates’ second search of the day, which looks exactly the same for each incoming inmate.

Gibbons said detention officers aid patrol officers and deputies with booking to help expedite the process and allow inmates to make their single phone call.

The emotions and intoxication factor run high during booking, so treating everyone with kindness and respect is a requirement.

“The majority of the people we deal with, it’s the worst day of their life; nobody wants to be arrested and taken to jail,” Gibbons said.

The booking process includes typical inquiries like name, address and information about tattoos on the body. Officers take booking pictures, fingerprint the inmates and change them into an orange jail uniform.

Each inmate is also screened for medical needs. Access to administered prescribed drugs and other in-house and inpatient care needs are met while in the care of the county.

The book-in process remains an integral part of incarceration in Sheridan County to ensure the safety and security of both the community and the arrested individual. Thompson said it’s a requirement to adequately care for the inmates’ daily needs.

“I view it from this side, but when you explain it to the general public why our general budget is $2.6 million a year, that’s hard to swallow; but it’s required,” Thompson said.

Different aspects of inmate care at the Sheridan County Detention Center are always changing, said Lt. Emily Hizer, who runs the detention center.

Two of the most positive changes for the jail were in-home medical care through Correct Care Solutions and in-home food services. This allows detention staff to stay in the detention center instead of running to get meals from the hospital or transporting ailed inmates to seek medical care, essentially translating to savings for taxpayers in salary costs.

Thompson and his team constantly look for efficiencies within the incarceration system while keeping focused on the welfare of the inmates and detention center staff, community safety and taxpayer dollars.

By |Apr. 17, 2018|

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