Prioritizing Protection of Personnel by Preventing Problems

At our quarterly jail inspection on June 15, I noted a safety concern. A young woman was alone in one of the classrooms with a male inmate. The Ada County jail has four classrooms, where inmates take classes and receive counseling. In this case, one-on-one counseling was apparently taking place.

I asked whether we had cameras in the classrooms to ensure the safety of the teachers, counselors and even inmates who frequent them and was told that we did not. In addition, plans for buying and installing cameras had been abandoned when the expenditure was removed from the proposed 2010 fiscal year’s budget in an effort by the Sheriff’s Office to make the cuts expected by our Board.

Although all of the classrooms in the jail have large windows that face well-trafficked hallways, I felt this situation created a safety risk that needed to be addressed, regardless of the budget concerns. My colleagues concurred.

I am grateful that the Sheriff’s staff went back and “found” $8000 elsewhere in the old 2009 fiscal year’s budget to purchase and install the much-needed cameras. Given that my colleagues and I are the ultimate risk managers for the county, I am very pleased to be able to report that the cameras are now up and running. From a more compassionate perspective, I am also pleased to know that we have ensured greater safety for the teachers and counselors whose work takes them inside the walls of the Ada County jail.

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