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Archive for Sunday, August 29, 1999

INMATE BEHAVIOR TO DETERMINE PLACEMENT

August 29, 1999

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Inmate classification will be part of the system at the new Douglas County Jail.

Inmates facing a serious charge such as murder or rape might not go directly to maximum-security lockup at the new Douglas County Jail.

If they follow the rules, they could earn a spot in the minimum- or medium-security areas.

A new classification system will be in force at the jail, situated just south of Kansas Highway 10 off Franklin. Inmates at the new jail will be housed in five separate "pods" or housing units -- work release, minimum, medium, maximum and the women's area, which has its own internal divisions.

Where an inmate eventually settles inside the jail depends on several factors.

What might surprise some is that an inmate's alleged crime won't be the top factor determining his housing assignment.

A defendant accused of murder might earn a spot in medium or even minimum security, Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said during a recent tour of the new jail.

"The charge really doesn't mean that much in a lot of institutions anymore," sheriff's department Capt. Bob Van Hoesen said. "The charge itself is probably not going to have as much meaning as more important things such as what their past incarceration history is and their behavior."

Prior convictions and stability in the community also will play a role, Sgt. David Dillon said.

When inmates arrive at the jail, they'll watch an orientation video and read a handbook of jail rules.

Compliance with corrections officers' expectations will play a big role whether an inmate gets to enjoy a game of basketball and eat in the company of other inmates, or if he'll spend 23 hours a day in lockdown in the maximum-security pod.

Anderson said the county has handled murder suspects who gave officers less trouble than inmates in for lesser crimes.

A newly booked inmate will be housed in the pre-classification area for up to 72 hours while two classification officers delve into the inmate's background.

An assignment to minimum security, where inmates have much more freedom, can be revoked at any time.

As part of direct supervision, corrections officers will go over house rules on a daily basis, reminding inmates what's expected of them.

A serious rule violation could result in transfer for an inmate from minimum- straight to maximum security.

In maximum security, "they're locked down for 23 hours a day. All services are brought to them as opposed to them going to the service. They get an hour ... of free time a day, but during that hour they're going to be showering and cleaning their cells," Van Hoesen said.

The transition team that Van Hoesen led in the months leading up to the opening of the new jail worked together to set the rules for the facility. The inmate rule book "talks about our expectations and what they can expect of us while they're here," the captain said.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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