I strongly believe that while inmates should be treated fairly and humanely, I also believe they should be treated as what they are...inmates. I have published this newsletter a couple of times, the last time I believe was in the spring of 2011. After the events that have unfolded in the last couple of days and the hundreds of public comments over the jail uniforms, I felt it was appropriate to publish is again. Sheriff John Montgomery
This is NOT the Holiday Inn
This is not the Holiday Inn. I am frequently asked to comment about our detention center - how it is managed, how the inmates are housed and treated - and what ‘a day in the jail' is like. I even receive comments (also known as grievances) from some of our inmates. Some of those comments come directly to my office; others find their way into the Letters to the Editor.
Even as our daily population has grown the past several years, we have made great strides in improving safety while finding opportunities to reduce the costs to the taxpayers.
Inmate Meals. We are meeting dietary guidelines while minimizing the food expense. The daily menu consists of oatmeal for breakfast, bologna sandwich for lunch, and beans and cornbread for dinner. There are occasions when food is provided by different organizations, such as for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but generally speaking if you are an inmate, expect oatmeal, bologna sandwiches and beans and cornbread 365 days a year.
Ways we are saving food expenses. (seven now)Two years ago, we started a garden that is maintained by the inmates. Produce from the garden supplements our pantry. In addition, we occasionally receive generous donations from various food vendors and individuals for food items such as potatoes, bread and eggs. Several local civic groups will provide leftover food after their events. Pancake batter and chili are many times brought to us after their events are over.
Inmate Medical Care. In 2007, through some generous donations from the hospital, private physicians and, working with our Quorum Court, we began an in-house medical clinic. As one of our top cost saving initiatives, we are now able to provide routine medical treatment to the inmate population. Prior to this clinic, we had to transport the inmate to Baxter Regional Medical Center (requiring a deputy to escort and guard) and absorb the costs of the emergency room visit. We estimate that the in-house clinic saves $75,000 per year in medical expenses.
Inmate Entertainment. There are no televisions or radios in the inmate areas. The inmates are not allowed to smoke inside or outside the Detention Center. The inmates are required to stay in their cells except for one hour of outdoor exercise per day.
Good Time. ‘Good Time' is a way to reduce an inmate's total sentence. In the past when there was an overcrowding problem, ‘Good Time' was rewarded by just serving time in jail. At our detention facility, ‘Good Time' has to be earned and is rewarded to those inmates who perform certain community services such as picking up trash, shoveling snow mowing county properties, etc. Furloughs (which is permission to leave jail for a holiday or ‘day off') are no longer granted to inmates by the Sheriff's Office.
For those inmates who qualify and are granted work release, we require them to pay one-third of their check for their fines and restitution and one-third for their room and board. They are allowed to keep the remaining third. This not only saves taxpayer money, but forces those on work release to pay back fines and restitution to their victims. We use the funds received to offset our medical expenses.
Website-Inmate Roster. Everyone who is booked into the Baxter County Sheriff's Detention Center has their picture and the charges posted to our website. This system is automated and updates every 15 minutes. Hundreds of people sign up on our email alerts through our website to receive this update every morning. The answer to the ‘why can we post this information' is very simple. The arrest, charges, photos, etc are all public record. This simply means that anyone from the public can go to the law enforcement agency and obtain the information. Our website is automated so it updates the inmates automatically when they are booked in our jail. No exceptions, everyone is treated the same. (we now average more than 165,000 visits to our website each month)
Again, this is not the Holiday Inn. To those who complain, I offer a simple observation -- this is not the Holiday Inn, this is jail. It is not supposed to be pleasant. You are not supposed to enjoy your stay. You are in jail because you broke the law. It is time you took responsibility for your own actions. You are being treated fairly and humanely. If you do not care for the accommodations, do not come back to jail.
It is very simple -- If you wish to remain in Baxter County, obey the law or face punishment. If you do not like how you are treated in this County when you break the law, MOVE! And for those people who are habitual and can't stop breaking the law, I suggest you do it in another county...
Sheriff John Montgomery