This week is a special week for us here at the Hubbard County Detention Center. It’s National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.
Introduced to Congress by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International in 1991, National Public Safety Telecommunications Week is the second full week of April each year. This week is dedicated to public safety telecommunicators who aid in providing emergency assistance to citizens everywhere.
Dispatching is a stress filled and intense way to make a living. Believe me I’ve done it and it takes a very special individual to be a dispatcher. They need to be masterful multitaskers, handling emergency 911 calls, dispatching officers, ambulance and fire departments and answering regular non-emergency calls all at the same time.
They need to be kind, caring and sympathetic as often times when a person calls 911 it is one of the worst days of their lives. Dispatchers are the vital link to emergency services that can help us when we need them most.
Dispatchers have an awesome responsibility and play a vital role in keeping the citizens of Hubbard County safe.
Dispatchers keep our peace officers, EMS and fire fighters safe so that they in turn can help us.
Not many can do this job so if you know a dispatcher or if you come into contact with one this week let them know you appreciate their hard work and dedication. Let them know that you are thankful for all that they do in keeping us all safe 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
It’s all about choices. When we make poor choices out in our normal, everyday world we can and do suffer consequences: financial, medical, criminal, etc. The same is true in jail. If an inmate makes a poor choice while incarcerated they’re going to suffer consequences up to and including financial consequences, additional criminal charges, lock-down and extended confinement.
Every inmate, upon being booked into jail, receives an Inmate Handbook. The handbook gives inmates the information needed to make their stay in jail as smooth and uneventful as possible. The handbook lays out what kind of behavior is expected of inmates, how to access health services, how to send and receive mail, etc., and at the very end lists a whole bunch of rule violations that may result in sanctions (consequences). It’s a road map to freedom and it’s too bad most inmates never read it.
In my last post about contraband, which you can find at http://hubbardcountyjail.org/2014/03/02/contraband/ I described a situation where people have been caught checking in to do their work release jail time or coming back from being out of jail on work release, trying to sneak clean urine into jail in order to try to pass urine tests. In this situation the inmate immediately loses work release privileges, meaning they don’t get to go out to work anymore, and in the process they’re very likely putting their employment in jeopardy. That person would also likely get some days in lock-down. Lock-down means the inmate is locked in their individual cell for twenty-three hours each day and is only allowed out for one hour to attend to personal hygiene, make phone calls and exercise. Depending on where the inmate is locked-down, they sometimes refer to it as being put in “the hole”. While in lock-down, inmates lose all privileges normally afforded well behaved inmates: canteen, vending machine access, TV, programs, etc.
Each rule violation is considered on its own but we can combine sanctions to achieve a creative end. For example, from time to time we’ll have inmates report that a phone card they’ve purchased has been stolen (inmates have to buy phone cards in order to call out of the jail). We can almost always determine who the thief is so it’s incredibly stupid for them to steal phone cards. A typical sanction for stealing a phone card is fourteen days in lock-down and loss of all privileges. We generally also stipulate in the Notice of Rule Infraction that if the thief replaces the phone card, the lock-down time will be reduced to seven days. Lock-down can be a very effective sanction and I can’t ever remember any phone card thief not coming up with the money to replace the stolen phone card.
Other violations, like making “hootch”, engaging in threatening behavior towards staff or other inmates, “cheeking” medication (to sell or save up to get high later), and most other violations will result in anywhere from seven to one hundred and eighty days in lock-down. More serious violations, like an assault on staff, will result in criminal assault charges and extended lock-down (up to a year). It will also most likely result in prison time.
One of the most effective sanctions we can levy is the loss of good-time. When a person is sentenced to jail they automatically receive one third of the total sentence off for good-time. For example, if a person receives a thirty day sentence they will only serve twenty days and be given ten days off for good-time. If the inmate breaks rules or exhibits bad behavior, we can and do take away some or all of those days, extending their time in jail.
When an inmate is sanctioned for a rule violation they have the opportunity to request a Review Hearing and appear in front of a three member board to refute allegations and/or to explain their side of any incident. The review hearing board will listen to all evidence, interview witnesses and then render a judgement. The board can reduce a sanction, increase it or leave it the same. They can also dismiss the violation in it’s entirety if it is determined to be unfounded.
Ultimately, the goal of levying sanctions isn’t to punish but to gain compliance. Of course there is always an element of punishment in any sanction, however, we’d just as soon inmates follow the rules. Most incidents aren’t enjoyable to any of the involved parties and some become dangerous and very intense. We do everything in our power to avoid these incidents and employ deescalation techniques to bring them to a peaceful resolution. We won’t however, hesitate to bring force to an incident in order to bring it to a safe conclusion.
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Per Minnesota’s 2911 rule:
“Contraband” means an item possessed by an inmate or found within the facility that is prohibited by statute or facility policy. This includes items that are authorized but in excess of allowable limits.
Specifically, contraband can be something that’s brought into the facility by an inmate or something found and possessed by an inmate that they’re not allowed to have. Contraband can also be anything that’s issued to an inmate that is altered from it’s original state or, as stated above, an excessive accumulation of any item issued to an inmate.
Contraband is a constant concern for Corrections Officers and a problem that can potentially be deadly. The above definition is how the Minnesota 2911 rule defines contraband but in real life terms, the contraband we have to deal with on a daily basis can take many forms:
- Controlled substances (drugs)
- Cell phones
- Food & Beverages
- Clean urine
Yes, you read that last one right: clean urine. Inmates that are serving a sentence and are granted work release privileges by the court and the jail are required to submit to a urine analysis upon checking into jail and periodically throughout their sentence to make sure they’re not using controlled substances while out of the facility at their place of employment. We’ve had people check in to jail carrying and trying to conceal clean urine so that they can pass a urine test. That’s pretty crazy right? What amazes me is that there are people willing to jeopardize their lively hood and extend their confinement just to get high. Addiction is a sad and frightening thing and I could go on and on about it but this is a post about contraband and the personal politics of addiction is beyond the purview of this discussion.
So how do we prevent the introduction of contraband to our facility? We can’t completely eliminate the possibility but we do what we can by thoroughly searching inmates as they enter our building. The first step is a clothed pat search. For a new arrest, an initial, cursory pat search is usually performed by the arresting officer prior to transporting the individual to the jail. Upon entry to the jail, however, a much more thorough pat search will be performed. This is a vital first step for keeping contraband out of our building and it can also be a potentially dangerous step for CO’s. We use nitrile exam gloves for searching people because we want to be able to feel anything that could turn out to be a weapon or other contraband but we don’t want to come into direct contact with bodily fluids, parasitic infestations (lice, scabies), etc. The problem is that some arrestees conceal “sharps” in and on various parts of thier bodies: needles, knives, hooks and other items that could poke or cut through the glove and penetrate our skin. CO’s are trained on how to prevent this as well as how to prevent infection and the spread of blood borne pathogens.
The next step is to “change them out”. This means strip searching the person and giving them jail clothing to wear while they’re in the facility. Strip searches are an uncomfortable process for everyone involved but we perform the search thoroughly and in as professional manner as possible. The process is essentially the same for work release inmates as well as Sentence To Serve work crews.
Constant vigilance is another tool we use to control contraband. Despite our best efforts at keeping contraband out, prohibited items do get in. Just as often, however, contraband we find turns out to be items inmates have acquired after being booked into jail. CO’s are constantly on the look out for inmates grabbing things they’re not allowed to have, things that normally wouldn’t cause a problem but in the hands of an inmate can cause issues.
We also periodically perform “Shake-Downs” throughout the facility. This is where we physically search a portion of the jail. It’s kind of like what you see on TV where Corrections Officers go through a housing unit searching through and removing all the contents of a inmate’s cell. We’re not as destructive as what you see on TV as we feel we can thoroughly search a cell without making a huge mess. Shake-downs are an integral part of keeping control of contraband and maintaining a safe facility for staff and inmates alike.
Something we might take from inmates during shake-downs but which may seem odd to people not involved in our profession, is excess food that inmates save from meal times. Bread, fruit, water, a vessel to brew in, and time are all that’s necessary to make “hootch”. Hootch is a fermented concoction that looks and smells absolutely disgusting but does contain alcohol and is therefor a highly sought after item to certain inmates. Obviously we try very hard to keep inmates from making hootch. The last thing we want in a housing unit is a bunch of intoxicated inmates.
Controlling contraband is a constant battle. Inmates have twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to think of ways to obtain and conceal contraband items. We don’t (we have lives outside of jail) but we do take the challenge seriously and are always on the lookout for contraband.
To learn more about the Hubbard County Detention Center including what we do when we find contraband please subscribe to our blog at http://www.hubbardcountyjail.org and you’ll be notified each time I post an update.
As promised in my last post here are some more common questions asked about our jail. Also as promised I’ve populated the FAQ page with the questions from my previous post as well as those in this post. Enjoy!
Q. Can I drop mail, shampoo, stamps, etc., off at the jail for an inmate?
A. No. The only items allowed to be dropped off for an inmate are:
* Prescription medication
* Clothing for STS crew members or for inmates upon release
* Prescription eyewear
The jail will not accept anything else for inmates. Please also understand that you may not bring legal or other paperwork down to the jail for an inmate to sign. You must send these items through the U.S. postal service and the inmate will be required to purchase and envelope to send it back to you.
Q. Does the jail take thirty percent of any deposits made to an inmates account?
A. Yes and No. If the inmate doesn’t owe the jail any money from the current or past incarcerations, 100 percent of any funds deposited after booking will be credited to their account and they can do with it as they please. If, however, the inmate owes the jail money we will take the thirty percent and apply it toward their liens.
When an inmate is assessed a fee it is charged to their account. If the inmate has funds to apply to the fee, the system will automatically attempt to collect the entire amount, or whatever is available.
We strongly believe that offenders need to help pay the cost of their incarceration(s). Building and operating a jail is not a cheap prospect and we wouldn’t have to do either if everyone in our community always made good choices. The reality is that there will always be those among us that choose to selfishly engage in criminal activity. It used to be that other than court fines, criminal offenders mostly avoided financial consequences associated with their stay in jail. That changed in 2011 when the County Commissioners approved the jail to start charging Pay To Stay fees and to seek reimbursement from offenders for any medical and dental expenses incurred by the jail on an inmates behalf.
Statutorily, we could take one hundred percent of any funds deposited on an inmates account while they’re incarcerated in our facility.1 If we chose that course of action, however, we would likely not recover much of what is owed as very few people would want to put money on any inmates account if they knew it would all be applied to what the inmate owed. We therefore decided that by taking thirty percent of deposits we would be able to recover some of the money owed the jail and at the same time encourage inmates to purchase items from the canteen system, phone cards etc. Remember from a previous post that commissions made from these sales funds our inmate programs.
Q. What happens to accounts that aren’t paid in full by the time the inmate is released?
A. Upon release, inmates are provided an invoice for the current balance due2. The total balance is due within 30 days unless a payment plan is set up. If the invoice isn’t paid within 30 days we will submit it to collections up to and including recovery through the State Of Minnesota’s Revenue Recapture program.
Q. What do you feed inmates?
A. Breakfast, lunch and dinner of course!
* Breakfast consists of cereal, milk, juice, fruit and a breakfast bar.
* Lunch is our “hot”3 meal and consists of a main entrée (tater-tot hot-dish, Salisbury steak, chicken curry, etc.), fruit or vegetable, bread, biscuit or roll, juice and desert.
* Dinner consists of sandwiches, sides like jello, salad, chips, etc., juice and desert.
Our menu has to meet Minnesota Department of Corrections nutritional standards. These standards dictate quantity, nutritional content and daily caloric intake.
Q. What fees do you charge inmates?
A. Depending on the situation the following fees are assessed to inmates:
* $15 Booking Fee
* $1 Hygiene Fee
* $5 Vending Card deposit (returned when the inmate is booked out if the card is returned and undamaged)
* $0.25 photo copy/fax
* $10 Nurse visit/sick call
* $0.50 Over the counter medication per dose fee
* $5 Bottled Over the count medication fee
* $3 Jail hair clippers rental fee
* $5 Reading glasses deposit (returned when the inmate is booked out if the glasses are returned and undamaged)
* $15 Work release urine test fee
* $25 Court ordered urine test fee with additional $15 for each substance tested
* $10 per day Pay To Stay fee (assessed upon sentencing)
* $20 per day Work Release fee
* $46 per day Out-Of-County boarding fee for offenders sentenced in another county that wish to serve in Hubbard.
Please note that under no circumstances are indigent inmates denied medical services or necessary hygiene items because of their inability to pay.
- we do take one hundred percent of any funds an inmate has with them at booking if the inmate owes money from previous stays or from the current incarceration ↩
- Medical or dental bills recieved after the inmate is released will be added to the account and a new invoice will be mailed to the inmate. ↩
- The Minnesota Department of Corrections mandates that we provide at least one hot meal per day. ↩
I get asked many questions throughout the day by inmates, family, friends and the general public. Most questions I get from inmates could easily be answered if they would just read their Inmate Handbook (yes we have a handbook) and I’ve tried to address many questions that family and friends might have, over at the official Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center web page.
Still,there are many other questions that come up fairly often that aren’t answered on that site so I thought I’d go through some of the more common ones in this post and perhaps a future post or two. I’ll roll these into a dedicated FAQ page as well so you will always be able to find answers to the most common questions I get asked. I’d also like to encourage readers to send me questions that aren’t answered here. If you’re wondering something about the Hubbard County Detention Center most likely there are other folks wondering the same thing.
Q. Can I send an inmate mail?
A. Absolutely but there are some rules to follow. Other than the address and return address do not write or draw anything on the outside of the envelop or it will be immediately placed into the inmate’s property and not delivered. We will accept and deliver letters that conform to the previous sentence as well plain greeting cards. Cards covered with glitter, strings and other doodads including all musical and recordable cards will not be delivered. Don’t put stickers on the envelopes or on the letters or cards themselves as they will not be delivered either. Mail that smells of perfume, has lipstick or other unidentifiable substances or stains on the envelope or its contents will also not be delivered.
You can send money to inmates through the mail but it is advisable not to send cash. Money orders are acceptable but we don’t accept personal checks.
You can also email inmates. You must set up an account at inmatecanteen.com and the charge is $0.25 per email. Once you do and if an inmate has money in their trust account to pay for a return email, they can reply to you.
Q. Can I speak to an inmate over the phone?
A. Yes but you can’t call them directly. You can leave short, 10-15 second voice mail messages by dialing 218-732-8273. The automated voice mail system will give you instructions on how to leave your inmate a voice mail message. When not in lockdown, inmates can call you directly from jail using phones in the housing units if you have a telephone that will accept collect calls or the inmate has purchased a phone card. You can set your phone up to accept collect calls by visiting http://www.reliancetelephone.com. You can also buy phone cards for your inmate directly from that website. It is your responsibility to get phone card numbers that you purchased online to your inmate not ours so don’t call asking us to deliver it because we won’t.
Keep in mind that all incoming and outgoing calls are recorded1.
Q. Do inmates receive appropriate medical care?
A. Yes. Medical issues are handled just like they would be if the inmate wasn’t in jail. If the issue is something that can be addressed during normal clinic hours the inmate may be taken to the clinic to see their regular physician. If not they may be taken to the emergency room by a deputy or by ambulance depending on the circumstances.
Inmates are finically responsible for all associated costs but are never denied medical care because of an inability to pay. If an inmate has medical insurance, clinic and hospital charges will be run through that first and the balance will be charged to the inmate. All medical and dental bills are charged to the inmate’s trust account as we receive them from the provider. Upon release the inmate will receive an invoice which is payable in thirty days or it gets turned over to collections.
Q. Can inmates go to the doctor when ever they want?
A. Inmates requesting to see a physician will first be screened by jail nursing staff. If the nurse feels the inmate needs to be further evaluated or treated by a physician they will make arrangements with jail staff to see that an appointment is made.
Q. Can inmates chose what physician they see.
A. Sometimes but not always. We take inmates to Essentia Clinic in Park Rapids. If the inmate’s physician practices medicine there, we can normally accommodate them. If the inmate’s primary physician is located at another clinic, the jail is not obligated to transport the inmate to that clinic just to see a particular physician.
Q. You said that inmates will first be screened by jail nursing staff. Does that mean they might not get to go to the doctor?
A. Not surprisingly, most inmate health issues are preexisting conditions that the inmate neglected to address while not incarcerated. Since many inmates are repeat offenders and know how to work the system, as soon as they come to jail they want to have every medical and dental issue that they neglected to address while on the outside, taken care of while they’re in custody. Also not surprisingly most inmates will not voluntarily pay the medical and dental bills they incur while incarcerated in our jail. That means that the jail, and by extension, the taxpayers of Hubbard County, will eventually end up footing the bill. This adds up to a substantial medical and dental bill at the end of the year. In an effort to keep that bill as low as possible trained nursing staff will screen inmates to determine if they actually need to see a doctor or dentist.
As I previously stated all emergency medical issues are immediately addressed by transporting the inmate to the emergency room by ambulance or by squad car.
Q. Can I donate books, magazines and puzzles to the jail?
A. No. The main reason is that it is a security issue. People on the outside can and do try to smuggle contraband into the facility in donated items. The other reason we don’t accept donated items is that experience has taught us that the books, magazines and puzzles that well intentioned folks typically want to donate aren’t in the best of shape. They tend to be musty, moldy, torn up and damaged or smell like cigarette smoke. In the past when we did accept donations from the public, most of the donations just ended up in the dumpster or recycling bin.
If you want to donate books and magazines to the jail we’ve set up an account at inmatecantee.com under the name Hubbard County Jail Programs that you can directly donate cash to and we’ll use that money to buy books and magazines. You can also make direct cash donations to that same account using the kiosk in the lobby of the Detention Center.
Q. Do inmates have access to vending machines?
A. Yes. In 2010 we contracted with Turnkey Corrections (inmate canteen.com) to provide vending and canteen items to our inmates. Statutorily, we are required to operate a canteen system in the jail and until 2010 we operated the canteen ourselves. It was a labor intensive and time consuming operation and one that we thought would be better served by someone other than trained corrections officers.
As the Programs Coordinator during the last three years I can say that Turnkey has been a great partner and has freed up a significant amount of time that I was able to devote to more important inmate programming activities. Also, canteen sales generate commissions that are used to pay licensed teachers and instructors to come into the jail to provide inmates an array of educational services: GED prep and testing, Adult Basic Life Skills classes, Parenting Classes, Cognitive Skills classes, etc.
Canteen commissions, along with phone card commissions have enabled us to purchase computers for our Programs room for inmates to use to look for employment, access the State Registrar’s site to research statutes and criminal code and to partake in various self-directed educational courses covering a wide variety of topics: parenting, basic and intermediate grammar, writing skills, employment search tools and resources, job interviewing skills, alcohol and substance abuse.
Lastly, canteen services and in particular vending machines, are an important inmate management tool. Inmates tend to be better behaved knowing that a consequence of poor behavior will be the loss of vending machine and canteen access. Put another way, inmate access to canteen and vending services makes for a safer and more secure facility.
That’s it for this round of questions and make sure to subscribe to our blog for future updates. Also, send me your questions and I’ll try to answer them in future posts.
- All calls to the inmate voice mail system and those made from the phones in the housing units are recorded other than those to attorneys. ↩
Come on down to the Sheriff’s Office for our annual Night To Unite on August 7th. from 5:00-7:00PM. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with law enforcement officers and check out some of the equipment and tools we use everyday to keep the citizens of Hubbard County safe. Members of the Posse Unit, Boat & Water Patrol, SWAT/ERU Team, Explorers Program, ATV Patrol, K-9 Unit, Sentence to Serve, Corrections and Communications will be on hand to answer questions or just visit. Park Rapids Police, North Ambulance and the Park Rapids Fire department will also be on hand.
There will be a K-9 demonstration, drunk goggles demo, a dunk tank and food will be served as well.
Hope to see you there!
The first full week in May has been designated National Correctional Officers Week and like my post for National Public Safety Telecommunications Week I’m just going to link to my post from last year. Not because I’m lazy, well maybe a little because of that, but mostly because I don’t think I can say it any better than I did last year.
It’s a tough, dangerous, thankless job and I count myself lucky to work with the folks that I do. Thanks to my fellow correctional officers! I appreciate the work that you do.
With all the talk lately about whats going to go on the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center I thought I’d take the opportunity to debunk a common misconception. The jail as it was built was never meant to house inmates in the second floor space where Social Services (or some other agency) will ultimately reside. I’m not sure where that came from but one look at the space and you can tell that it is not, nor was it ever intended for the secure detention of inmates. I was working in the old jail during the design phase of the new facility but wasn’t in on any of those discussion so I can only imagine that this notion might have come from one of the early, preliminary building designs.
The second floor as it exists today was clearly designed for office space. Jail construction typically doesn’t include large windows, for obvious reasons, which this space has lots of. Nor does jail construction typically include open, exposed ceilings like you see in the photo.
Take a look at the Maximum Classification housing unit photos in the Jail Tour and you can see that the type of construction on the second floor is nothing like how an actual jail is built. In our facility the housing units have skylights in the day rooms but don’t include any windows at all (the two recreation rooms do have windows). You’ll also see that the ceilings in the jail are concrete beam construction and totally different than the exposed steel construction over the second floor space. Granted the 2nd floor is unfinished space and the photos of the jail were taken after completion but the difference is still pretty obvious. Lastly, drywall isn’t used in a jail, again for obvious reasons. In the above photo, however, you can see lots of drywall. Clearly this space was never intended for jail space.
Two of the housing units in our jail do have a second tier mezzanine complete with finished and inmate ready cells and perhaps thats where the misconceptions come from.
Another thing I hear quite often is that we built too big of a jail and now we don’t have enough inmates to fill it. The implication and misconception here being that the planners over estimated our local need. My understanding is that the jail was built for the future and the decision was made to build big enough in 2005 so that the county wouldn’t have to face the overcrowding issue every few years. We now have a jail that will meet our needs for the foreseeable future. For more info on the whole design and building process see my History Of The New Law Enforcement Center post from last August.
There may also have been hope that surrounding counties that were in the same predicament as Hubbard in terms of over crowding, would want to house their excess population in our jail and for a while after we first opened that was in fact what happened. Crow Wing County then opened their new facility in Brainerd and shortly thereafter the new Tri County Correctional facility opened in Crookston. In the space of just a couple years an area that had a shortage of jail space now had an adequate supply.
I hesitate to quote myself but I’m going to close this post with this (from my 2011 Year In Review post):
Corrections and jail facilities are infrastructure and are no different then the highway department or a municipal public works department. You can’t have law enforcement with out jails and you can’t have a civil society where citizens are free to engage, without fear, in the daily activities of a free and open free-market democracy without law enforcement and jails.
National Public Safety Telecommunications Week is April 8th – 14th so it’s the time of year again when we honor the dispatchers that work hard at keeping us all safe. I can say without hesitation that the dispatchers I work with are some of the finest people I’ve ever known. They are amazing people that do amazing work.
Instead of trying to rewrite my blog post from 2011, which I thought was pretty good, I’m just going to link to my post from last year. It’s worth reading again.
Thank you Vicki, Michelle, Pam, Heather, Kara, Karol, Emily, Alycia, Sharon, Ashlan and Jon.
Lest ye think I’m some sort of statistician I’m not, but since I brought up stats in my last post I thought I’d run with that theme, run a few reports and see what the jail population is doing in comparison to last year. In terms of Average Daily Population (ADP) we are up substantially from 2011 in January and February. If my iPhone  did the math correctly, our January 2012 ADP was up 46 percent and our February ADP was up 35 percent. The March 2012 ADP was up a modest 20 percent.
1st Qtr. 2011 ADP vs 1st Qtr. 2012 ADP:
The increases in ADP
is are due partially to an increase in arrests and partially to the HCDC housing inmates from other counties. We seem to be housing substantially more for Becker County this year than last. I’ll leave it to you the readers of this blog to determine if thats good, bad or none of the above. I can tell you that the jail has been an incredibly busy place the last four or five months and those of us that work here aren’t surprised at all by those numbers. I can also tell you that we are working very hard just trying to keep up.
↩ I’m embarrassed  to say that without the help of a sweet iPhone app by the name of Soulver [iTunes App Store link], I have no doubt I would’ve made a mess of the math. I’m still not sure I did it correctly. If anyone wants to correct my math feel free do do so in the comments. You won’t hurt my feelings.
↩ Let this be a lesson children: pay attention to your math teacher (all your teachers for that matter) or you’ll end up like me having to go to jail five days a week. :-)