RIPLEY - Overcrowding in the prison system is nothing new. Outdated methods of dealing with prisoners and prison systems are also a problem. In an effort to make adjustments that will help law enforcers, John Doyle spoke to Jackson County Commissioners.
According to Doyle, who served as a prison guard, the regional jail authority within the last year to year and a half has made a number of changes.
Said Doyle, “A lot of the changes come from questions that we’ve asked county commissioners, like your selves, from all around the state as well as judges and magistrates. The most critical is getting our financial house in order and I think we’ve done that. For a number of years we had audits that showed major deficiencies. The 2012 audit was completely clean. It’s the first time we’ve ever had it. The fiscal audit for 2013 will come out next month and we hope it’s going to be clean as well. Our financial planning is finally in compliance.
A facility improvement master plan was needed as the approach to maintenance and capital improvements were described as “very haphazard”. For maintenance the most responded was for major crises.
Doyle gave examples of two financial requests from prisons in the State, “If All the sudden when a boiler breaks somewhere and there’s flooding and we have to come up with the money to repair it. In terms of capital improvements if someone from one of the jails says we need to this, that and thus-in-so, we have the money, here take it and get it fixed. There was no over-all plan within the system, but now we have one in place. Preventive maintenance is now uniform throughout the same system. Now everyone is on the same page and sharing planning initiatives with each other.” There is a director for asset planning whose job it is to look into future needs. There are two people in the central office that are support staff for the director. The support staff makes sure that any plans that the director makes is followed.”
Another focus discussed was employee retention. Doyle stated that too many times a person is trained and then would leave right away.
Said Doyle, “We decided it was for two reasons. One is human resource was done in the central office in Charleston. When any of our people saw that there was a promotion opening and they had to deal with Charleston to do it they would just end up taking another job near and home out of our system to make a little more money that would amount to the promotion they would have got”.
Without hiring new people, assignments were reallocated within each jail. A human recourse office is now in each prison.
Page 2 of 2 - “When openings come if anyone wants to apply they just has to go down the hall a few doors,” informed Doyle, “Raises and positions were always done by seniority. If we had someone without seniority they didn’t want to wait around. We still consider seniority, but we also look for an education level, training and evaluation by supervisors.”
After explaining many of the changes already in place and those that have not been implemented as of yet, Doyle opened the floor for suggestions to take back to the Regional Jail Authority.
What seemed to be the worst problem was dealing with South Central Regional Jail.
Sheriff Tony Boggs stated that when a prisoner was taken to South Central the staff refused to accept the prisoner on two different occasions citing high blood pressure as the reason.
Said Boggs, “There’s nothing you can do about blood pressure and they have medical staff there”.
Bruce DeWess stated that when he was a deputy he also had a problem with South Central not accepting a prisoner. DeWees drove to Virginia to get an individual with a court order sighed by Judge Evans to get the prisoner from Virginia. DeWess stated he was told to wait and after two and a half hours and said that they couldn’t not accept him. He said that the problem was taken care of eventually, but only after a considerable chunk of time.
Along with other concerns, Doyle wrote down questions that needed answers, as well as suggestions to make processes smoother to take back to the regional jail authority.