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Behind Bars: Check the manual: Rules are spelled out for an uneventful jail stay if you read

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Discipline, by Joe Henry

It’s all about choices. When we make poor choices out in our normal, everyday world we can and do suffer consequences: financial, medical, criminal, etc.

The same is true in jail. If an inmate makes a poor choice while incarcerated they’re going to suffer consequences up to and including financial consequences, additional criminal charges, lock-down and extended confinement.

Every inmate, upon being booked into jail, receives an Inmate Handbook. The handbook gives inmates the information needed to make their stay in jail as smooth and uneventful as possible. The handbook lays out what kind of behavior is expected of inmates, how to access health services, how to send and receive mail, etc., and at the very end lists a whole bunch of rule violations that may result in sanctions (consequences). It’s a road map to freedom and it’s too bad most inmates never read it.

In my last post about contraband I described a situation where people have been caught checking in to do their work release jail time or coming back from being out of jail on work release, trying to sneak clean urine into jail in order to try to pass urine tests.

In this situation the inmate immediately loses work release privileges, meaning they don’t get to go out to work anymore, and in the process they’re very likely putting their employment in jeopardy.

That person would also likely get some days in lock-down. Lock-down means the inmate is locked in their individual cell for twenty-three hours each day and is only allowed out for one hour to attend to personal hygiene, make phone calls and exercise.

Depending on where the inmate is locked-down, they sometimes refer to it as being put in “the hole.” While in lock-down, inmates lose all privileges normally afforded well behaved inmates: canteen, vending machine access, TV, programs, etc.

Each rule violation is considered on its own but we can combine sanctions to achieve a creative end. For example, from time to time, we’ll have inmates report that a phone card they’ve purchased has been stolen (inmates have to buy phone cards in order to call out of the jail). We can almost always determine who the thief is so it’s incredibly stupid for them to steal phone cards.

A typical sanction for stealing a phone card is fourteen days in lock-down and loss of all privileges. We generally also stipulate in the Notice of Rule Infraction that if the thief replaces the phone card, the lock-down time will be reduced to seven days.

Lock-down can be a very effective sanction and I can’t ever remember any phone card thief not coming up with the money to replace the stolen phone card.

Other violations, like making “hootch,” engaging in threatening behavior towards staff or other inmates, “cheeking” medication (to sell or save up to get high later), and most other violations will result in anywhere from seven to 180 days in lock-down. More serious violations, like an assault on staff, will result in criminal assault charges and extended lock-down (up to a year). It will also most likely result in prison time.

One of the most effective sanctions we can levy is the loss of good-time. When a person is sentenced to jail they automatically receive one-third of the total sentence off for good-time.

For example, if a person receives a 30-day sentence they will only serve 20 days and be given 10 days off for good-time. If the inmate breaks rules or exhibits bad behavior, we can and do take away some or all of those days, extending their time in jail.

When an inmate is sanctioned for a rule violation they have the opportunity to request a review hearing and appear in front of a three member board to refute allegations and/or to explain their side of any incident.

The review hearing board will listen to all evidence, interview witnesses and then render a judgment. The board can reduce a sanction, increase it or leave it the same. They can also dismiss the violation in its entirety if it is determined to be unfounded.

Ultimately, the goal of levying sanctions isn’t to punish but to gain compliance.

Of course there is always an element of punishment in any sanction. However, we’d just as soon inmates follow the rules. Most incidents aren’t enjoyable by any of the involved parties and some become dangerous and very intense. We do everything in our power to avoid these incidents and employ de-escalation techniques to bring them to a peaceful resolution. We won’t, however, hesitate to bring force to an incident in order to bring it to a safe conclusion.

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