Staff-inmate respect key at Carson City Jail
Carson City Jail
Built: April 1999
Capacity: 244 beds
Average monthly population: 187
Average monthly male population: 137
Average monthly female population: 49
Average stay: 56 days
Population high: 202
Population low: 172
Services provided: incarceration, medical, mental health, court services and transports
For the staff of the Carson City Jail, the day starts at 7 a.m., when the 10-person day shift staff comes in for briefing and to relieve the graveyard shift officers.
During briefing the deputies and shift sergeant meet to discuss problems from the night before, give announcements and assign duties for the day.
After briefing at the beginning of every shift, the rove deputies go into the cells and do a head count to make sure every inmate is accounted for.
Roves are like the jack of all trades; they do meals, inmate checks, deliver medications and assist the other deputies if need be. There are typically two rove deputies per shift and they are the ones who have the most interaction with inmates throughout the day.
For all of the staff, but especially the rove deputies, treating the inmates with respect is not only beneficial, but a vital piece of the inmate/deputy interaction.
“It’s all about respect — if you show them respect they show you respect,” said Deputy Jeff Scott. “A lot of them are just here on pretrial and are here simply because they can’t pay bail so you have to be careful and just be respectful to them.”
Scott said because they treat each other with respect it makes for a less hostile environment for both staff and inmates — some pairs even joke and laugh with each other at times.
Aside from rove, there are three other positions within the jail: courts, booking and control.
The control room is like a beehive. It’s a giant glass hexagon that can see into all the cell blocks and controls the main hub that tracks who enters and leaves and controls all of the doors.
“It’s like the extra eyes of the facility,” said Deputy Michael Huynh.
The purpose of the control room is to create multiple fold of security within the jail. It can control all of doors inside and outside the facility and can see everything that’s going on. And with the new $200,000 system upgrade the jail received in December, the control room now consists of several touch screen monitors to make the system more efficient and makes it easier for control deputies to work with the system.
The one place the control can’t access is in the booking area, because it adds that level of security, so if something was to happen an inmate would need to be able to access both separate systems to escape.
The booking area consists of pre-booking; search area; change out area for the inmates to receive their clothing and toiletries; the booking room where their mug shot and fingerprints are taken and; classification where the deputy decides which cell block the inmate will be housed in. The booking area is also where inmates are released.
Typically several deputies work at booking, as it can get backed up pretty easily. Their main priority is getting inmates released, so there are times it can take several days to get inmates booked because they are more focused on releases first, said Deputy Karlyn Jones.
On top of that, booking works a lot of the administrative tasks that need to be performed for the jail and inmates, such as taking phone calls, taking bail money and collecting and sending faxes from other agencies. A lot of their time is spent on the computer getting paperwork filed to get people in and out of jail.
Most of the positions within the jail change from day to day, so deputies aren’t assigned to a specific section, except for the court deputies. Unlike the regular jail staff who work four 10-hour days a week, the court deputies work five 8-hour days to coincide with the court schedule.
Deputies Craig Erven and Thomas Miller are the two assigned to the courts and they work with the judge’s bailiffs to get inmates to and from their hearings and watch over the proceedings in case something happens.
“It’s interesting because this is the side of the criminal justice process you don’t usually get to see,” Erven said. “When you are on patrol or detention you don’t see the end result and you don’t get to see the people remorseful and sober like you do with court.”
Erven has been a court deputy for about five months and said he enjoys working with it because everyone involved with the court proceeding is there to try to help suspects to get them the resources to improve their lives and learn from their mistakes.
“Everyone here is here to help and provide resources and get them better,” Erven said. “Many people think that the people that come through here are just a number, but everyone, the attorneys, the DA, the judge all really care and really want what’s best for the inmate and also for society as a whole.”
The Carson City jail, built in April 1999, houses inmates either awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to a period of time of one year or less. The detention center is located in between the Carson City Sheriff’s Office and Courthouse, which allows jail staff to be able to take inmates directly from their cell down a hallway and into the courthouse.
The Carson City jail provides a number of services for inmates including incarceration, medical help, mental health services, court services and transports.
The jail houses 244 beds, with an average daily population of 186 inmates. There’s an average of 137 males and 49 females housed at the time, and the average stay for an inmate is 56 days.
Inmates can be housed in a number of cell blocks. The jail has general population, disciplinary, special needs, the trustee cell blocks and holding cells for both the men and women inmates. Most of the cell blocks are dual level and have individual cells with a common area that has a television, phones for the inmate calling system and bathroom facilities. The only exceptions are the trustee cells and the female general cells, which are both open floor plans.
There also is an exercise yard within the building with a mesh ceiling inmates can use at least once a day to get some fresh air and exercise and a visitation area for inmates and their loved ones to utilize.
The jail staff tries to help the inmates better themselves so once they are out of jail they will make better choices and be more productive members of society.
“We’re looking to improve people not tear them down,” said Capt. Clay Wall.
Some inmates are visible to the public, called trustees, who work in the Sheriff’s Office and the community as a way to reduce their sentences.
Inmates have to apply to the trustee program, and if accepted, they work in the detention center as kitchen and laundry staff, the Sheriff’s Office as cleaning staff and on certain supervised assignments in the community. These inmates are low risk and can receive 15 days a month off their sentences working in the program.
Besides cultivating more positive staff/inmate relations, the jail also offers a number of programs to help inmates with issues such as mental health and substance abuse so once they get out they reduce their chances of re-offending.
On staff is Dr. Joe McEllistrem, a psychologist who works in the jail Monday through Friday. Dr. McEllistrem and his team work inside the jail so if inmates are having a difficult time with their mental health, they distribute the medications and conduct counseling sessions.
It’s up to the inmates to choose if they want to participate in the resources provided in the jail. For some, like former inmate Jason Way, using the tools such as the counseling sessions will hopefully help him after jail.
“We get put in the right direction,” Way said. “There are definitely programs and if someone wants to do good, they will do good. You usually fall off because it is your own doing. And they put you in the right direction; they put you in drug court and stuff like that because they want you to succeed. Sometimes it’s hard to say that because you screw up and they put you in the right direction.”
Way had been in and out of the Carson City jail for the last two years for drug related crimes. He said the first round of incarceration, he didn’t utilize any of the resources provided, and he was just focused on getting out and using methamphetamine again. He had only been out of jail for about three months before he was arrested again for stealing items from Walmart while high.
“Before I started getting into the groups and such, I was on a criminal path,” Way said. “I had a criminal mind 100 percent and they are criminalizing us because we are doing criminal stuff, it’s not for nothing. I understand that now.”
He said since using the Forensic Assessment Service Traige Team, or FASTT, a mental health program within the detention center, this time around, he was able to change his mindset and work towards a better life instead of a life of drugs and crime.
“I care a lot more about stuff, like going to church and FASTT, and all that stuff it has helped me,” Way said. “Instead of just having nothing, you have stuff out there they will help you and give you a start if you want it.
“I don’t think (I’m going to use) at all, I feel 100 percent different than (I do) coming in before this time. I knew before (I would use again). But now I got a lot of their tools; I used the tools here more. Last time I didn’t do any of the counseling classes, I didn’t apply myself.”
The inmates’ days are fairly structured, with meals and medications given at certain times throughout the day and counseling and group sessions scheduled throughout the week.
“It’s a hard jail to be in,” Way said. “It’s real structured, the rules and stuff. I think its helpful because I do think differently now and I needed structure. Some of the other jails I’ve been to, it’s a lot looser and if I was still using dope it wouldn’t be a problem for me to go to (other) jails because it’s so relaxed, so it’s not that bad. Here I don’t want to come back.”