From the Office of the Sheriff
Sheriff Dennis L. Dotson
For Immediate Release
Date: February 15, 2007
A consultant from the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) visited the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for three days during the last week of November 2006. A NIC consultant, Mr. James Rowenhorst, toured the Lincoln County Jail and visited with Sheriff Dotson, the Jail Commander, several state and local elected and appointed officials, several Sheriff’s Office members, and some inmates.
In February 2006, a request for a consultant from the NIC was made by Sheriff Dotson to evaluate the jail and make recommendations for future utilization of the facility. The NIC provides consulting services for jail operations at no cost to county government. Mr. Rowenhorst was selected and invited by the Sheriff to conduct a review of our jail.
Mr. Rowenhorst is a nationally known correctional consultant from South Dakota. Mr. Rowenhorst has 30 years experience in the field of jails and corrections. He has participated in more than 100 projects in 35 states involving correctional facility planning, transition to new facilities, and staff training for jails with as few as 25 beds to systems involving as many as 2000 beds.
Mr. Rowenhorst was tasked with critiquing the operation of Lincoln County’s Jail in addition to recommending ways in which the jail can be better utilized by police officers, the courts, and parole and probation.
As one would expect, yearly operations for the jail have steadily increased since the jail’s opening in 1992 and today requires more than $5 million to house and supervise 141 inmates. Sheriff Dotson stated, “We are committed to continue to provide a high level of excellence in inmate supervision and providing efficient and effective services in the jail.” Sheriff Dotson added, “We have already demonstrated our commitment to finding more fiscally responsible ways to supervise this county’s inmate population and operate the jail.”
Sheriff Dotson is referring to the two restructurings of jail operations that occurred approximately one year apart. On July 1, 2005, funding for 10 technician positions was reallocated to fund two additional patrol deputy positions, three corrections deputy positions, and two administrative support positions. There was no additional impact on the County’s General Fund.
On July 1, 2006, funding for three jail supervisor positions was reallocated to fund four corrections deputy positions to open the previously unused female housing unit. In August 2006, the female housing unit was opened and females were transferred into that housing unit. In addition, the bed capacity for the jail was increased from 129 to 141 and the inmate population increased from 101 to 141. This was achieved by adding only one corrections deputy FTE position. This additional position will significantly reduce overtime costs to safely staff the newly opened housing unit.
Mr. Rowenhorst’s report raises questions as to the manner in which the jail is utilized by our criminal justice partners. Sheriff Dotson stated, “Due to the high demand placed on available jail bed space by police officers, the courts, and parole and probation services, we must work together to determine what the best possible utilization of our county jail should be, given our current resources.”
It is believed that there are successful and less costly alternatives to incarceration. Work release managed by Parole & Probation and supervised by the County Road Department is one such program. This alternative sanction to incarceration has proven to be a cost efficient and effective way to supervise offenders who pose a minimum safety risk to our citizens. Parole & Probation’s electronic home detention monitoring program (EHD) has also proven to be another very successful alternative to costly incarceration.
The court’s support of alternative sentencing by imposing sanctions other than incarceration has allowed these programs to grow and become increasingly successful. The importance and value of the strong partnerships between the Sheriff’s Office, Parole & Probation, the state courts, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Juvenile Department in managing our county’s adult and juvenile offender populations can never be understated.
Mr. Rowenhorst was very complimentary of the jail’s appearance, maintenance, and operations. Sheriff Dotson said, “There were no surprises here.” “We are well aware of the pride and professionalism of the men and women who manage this county’s inmate population.” “Our citizens should be very proud of their Sheriff’s Office jail team.”
The complete NIC report including our responses to several findings is available on the Sheriff’s Office website under “What’s New” at www.lincolncountysheriff.net
This report was only the first important step in the Sheriff’s Office plan, which is to appoint a Blue Ribbon Committee to discuss and determine the answers for two important issues:
- What purpose should the jail serve in managing the criminal offender population in Lincoln County?
- How can the jail be utilized by police officers, the courts, and parole and probation to best serve their needs and needs of the citizens of Lincoln County?
Sheriff Dotson stated, “There is a shared responsibility between local funding authorities and criminal justice partners in managing our jail.” Sheriff Dotson offered a quote from a NIC publication, “An important first step in meeting this shared responsibility is to ensure that local government officials and members of the local criminal justice system, in partnership with the community, identify a philosophic approach to the use of the jail.”
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