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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : state September 27, 2016


2/21/2013 2:21:00 PM
A Tale of Two Jails
Yavapai, Mohave facilities differ in philosophy, atmosphere
Courtesy YCSOAbove (inset) is a typical dorm, or cell, at the Camp Verde jail. Itís 7 by 11 feet, and sleeps two inmates. Most inmates are allowed access to a common area during the day.
Courtesy YCSO

Above (inset) is a typical dorm, or cell, at the Camp Verde jail. Itís 7 by 11 feet, and sleeps two inmates. Most inmates are allowed access to a common area during the day.
Scott Orr/Daily CourierYCSO Sgt. Michael OíNeill operates the newly refurbished Master Control room at the Camp Verde jail.
Scott Orr/Daily Courier

YCSO Sgt. Michael OíNeill operates the newly refurbished Master Control room at the Camp Verde jail.
Jail technology saves money, makes jobs easier, and facility more secure
CAMP VERDE -- Captain Brian Hunt, who commands the Yavapai County jail, has a strong IT background, so it comes as no surprise that he is a big proponent of using technology to make the jail run smoothly.

A relatively new concept the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office (YCSO) has instituted is remote booking. It takes advantage of wireless Internet technology, and Hunt said, has received national attention.

"A deputy by the side of the road in Bagdad can sit there with an arrestee in the back of his car and complete his portion of the booking (via his in-car computer)," Hunt said. "It appears here, sometimes hours before the (prisoner) appears here."

Combined with the ability to physically book prisoners in Prescott, police spend less time off the road doing paperwork, and more time on patrol.

Perhaps best of all, the system was free because YCSO helped the vendor develop and troubleshoot it.

Remote booking has not yet come to Mohave County's jail, although booking at police substations does get transmitted to the jail.

Another advance Camp Verde uses that has yet to be implemented in Mohave County is iris scanning.

Like fingerprinting, the iris is unique to each person, and cannot be altered. Each inmate is scanned when he or she enters the facility. It's a quick process, faster and neater than fingerprinting - the prisoner peers into a device that looks similar to the vision-check gadget at Motor Vehicles and an image of the iris is stored in a computer. The scans are added to a growing national database.

The next big thing at Camp Verde is video visitation. Currently, prisoners have visitation by family members on a rigid schedule - certain inmates on certain days, for a specified length of time. It works like what you might see in a movie: a row of prisoners sits on one side of a pane of glass, talking via a telephone handset to a visitor on the other side. A detention officer watches over the process.

A modular structure in the jail parking lot is being outfitted so visitors can come in and have a teleconference with an inmate on one of 40 similar systems located inside the dorm areas. It saves money and adds security, too, because staff won't have to escort inmates to the visitation area and deal with bringing people into the jail to talk with them.

The price tag for the video system: $135,000, which will come from YCSO funds, and was approved by the county Board of Supervisors this week.

When it comes to inmate visitation, Mohave County's jail has taken the lead. Face-to-face contact is not allowed. Instead, there's a room filled with 26 video stations adjacent to the jail's lobby. There, a person can visit with his or her inmate of choice via video link.

Also on the way to Camp Verde is a kiosk system like an ATM, to be placed at police stations, that will allow people to bond out a prisoner by swiping a credit or debit card, 24 hours day. Prisoners could also get money added to their jail accounts at the same kiosks.

Still on the horizon, Hunt said, is visitation by Internet from home or a mobile device by a service such as Skype.

"We have a Sheriff who absolutely believes in maximizing technology to the greatest extent possible," Hunt said. "It's good stuff."

By Scott Orr
Contributing Reporter

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher is proud of his jail.

Recently, he said, "If you go to other jails and look at the cleanliness, the quietness, what the inmates are doing, it's a big difference."

We toured Mascher's Camp Verde jail and then asked reporters from our sister publication, the Kingman Daily Miner, to tour the Mohave County jail so we could compare the two.



The Yavapai County jail in Camp Verde is clean, quiet and orderly. It's run by YCSO Captain Brian Hunt, who echoes Sheriff Scott Mascher's concerns about protecting the civil rights of inmates, most of whom have not been convicted of a crime while they are in the jail.

Walking down the long hallway the jail staff calls "The Grey Mile," a reference to the Hollywood prison movie "The Green Mile," Hunt stopped and asked, "Listen. What do you hear?"

Nothing but the airhandling equipment.

"What do you smell?"

Lunch, and it smells pretty good.

There's no yelling, and inmates aren't banging on the bars - in fact, there aren't any bars. The jail is made up of pods, each containing "dorms," which open onto common areas where inmates read, play board games, watch TV, and talk. The dorms, their sleeping quarters, have small windows high above the floor and solid doors. Detention officers monitor their activity with surveillance cameras and one-way glass.

"No flaming rolls of toilet paper being thrown around," Hunt said with a chuckle.

At the Mohave County jail in Kingman, safety and security top a list of priorities. Inmate comfort does not.

Those accused of crimes such as murder and rape live in the A-pod - which houses roughly 40 inmates - and are referred to as the "pre-trial worst of the worst." They spend 23 hours a day in their cell, get zero recreation time and are unhappy about it. The one hour a day they get to make phone calls is quickly stripped from the offenders who act up during their stay in A-pod.

"We get no recreation time up here," yelled one from his cell during the Miner's tour of the facility.

Others took up his chorus and rained down complaints about the jail from their cells, making serious accusations and then laughing about them as if it's all a big joke.

"The COs (corrections officers) beat my ass," one inmate yelled, prompting the whole pod to break out in raucous laughter.

Jail Commander Bruce Brown shook his head and cracked a small smile.

"We don't run the best hotel," he said.

***

Mascher's background includes a five-year stint in charge of the jail under former Sheriff Buck Buchanan, so his point of view is influenced by the experience.

"I don't know what I'd do without that jail knowledge," Mascher said.

One of the things he learned is that, when you give inmates reasons to get angry or frustrated, they'll eventually become violent and that can lead to rioting.

Food is the number one way to avoid that, Mascher said.

"You know, sure - we could give them green bologna, but we're giving them the calories of a national standard for 80 cents a meal or less, so why not give them something that makes them a little more content?" he asked.

The federal government mandates the jail provide certain things to inmates, including 3,000 calories (two hot meals, one cold meal) a day, medical care, mental health care and emergency dental care.

In Kingman, the jail is spotless and relatively quiet outside of A-pod (maximum security). A trip to the control room that manages E-pod (medium security) and F-pod (minimum security) is a much more comfortable than a trip to A-pod. These two pods house female inmates, who look a lot happier than the boys locked down in maximum security.

It's just before lunch - a meal consisting of two sandwiches, a bag of chips and two cookies - and in both pods you can see some women walking the rooms' perimeters as if they're working out on a track.

***

The Camp Verde jail kitchen is a point of pride for Mascher. Inmates work side-by-side to prepare meals with employees. "The employees that work in the jail will eat that food," Mascher said. "The inmates know that, so they know they're getting something that's good."

Hunt treats them with respect, gives them things to do, both indoors and out. "A busy inmate is a happier inmate," Hunt said - and the jail runs much more smoothly.

Keeping the place clean counts, too. "I think how you keep the facility absolutely clean is critical," Mascher said. "I think if you keep those floors polished, if you sanitize daily, keep the walls clean, the doors clean, the windows clean, and you see employees and inmates doing that, it instills pride in what you're doing."

In Kingman, lesser offenders do all of the jail's laundry and work in the kitchen doing prep work. Inmates sentenced to county time also work outside of the jail, including painting over graffiti found on county buildings.

"We utilize them because it's free labor," Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, who, like Mascher, was commander of his county's jail in the 1980s, said. "And it's an opportunity (for inmates) to get out of their cells."

Those housed in the A-pod don't get to work inside or outside the jail. In fact, they don't get to do much of anything.

Camp Verde takes a different tack, separating by policy, "sex offenders, informants, law enforcement affiliated, escape risks, violent towards staff or other inmates, exhibit institutional behavioral problems, mentally or physically ill, or any other circumstance that may make them a higher safety and security risk."

YCSO Lt. Scott Rushing said, "These people cannot be housed, typically, with anyone, due the threat of violence against them, their own propensity for violence, or their complete and utter inability to follow institutional rules," he said. "They are allowed a half-hour out of their cell daily to shower, (and) make phone calls," but other activities like attorney visits and medical care don't count against that time.

Sex offenders, he added, are not usually locked down but are held with other sex offenders.

***

There are currently about 550 inmates in the 600-bed Camp Verde facility, although that number changes daily. Some are bed-rental inmates, other agencies' prisoners. Those agencies pay YCSO $63 a day to house their inmates.

The jail used to run in the red, but thanks to the aggressive bed-rental program and other assorted funding ideas Mascher instituted, the jail made a profit in 2012.

The first week of February, there were just over 500 inmates in the Mohave County Jail. The jail's capacity is approximately 700.

John Timko, Mohave County's Finance Director, said the county does not rent out space in the jail to any county or city. Timko said the jail is neither in the red nor the black, but simply operates within its budget.

Brown was instrumental in the design and development of the jail in Kingman, and he takes great pride in the way it runs.

"It's a massive operation," he said. "But it's a necessary expense."



Reporters from the Kingman Daily Miner contributed to this story.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013
Article comment by: Point of Pride

Excellent article. The Camp Verde jail should be a point of pride for the Verde Valley and the whole of Yavapai County.

It is also a major employer and adds to our economy.

Thank you to all the people who work there.




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