Jail staff analysis calls for additional hires

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The report doesn’t look good. 

The staff analysis concerning the Jones County Jail included some jarring conclusions. 

During the Sept. 10 Board of Supervisor meeting, Steve Davis with Shive-Hattery presented his findings to the supervisors. Also present were Sheriff Greg Graver, Deputy Sheriff Brian Eckhardt, and Jail Administrator Tess LeMense. 

“So what can we do to make the current facility safer and reduce liability?” proposed Davis. “What can you do with what you have?” 

Having toured the jail with LeMense, Davis said there is some obvious wear and tear throughout the facility, which is to be expected considering the age and 24/7/365 operation. 

Davis said the Jones County Jail is not ideal in its layout and design. Modern jails are laid out in a modular style, with a control room in the center and the cells circling around so officers can monitor what’s happening at all times. 

“You have a linear layout,” Davis explained. 

He said it’s important that the county maintain a secure perimeter and not overlap with the public areas of the courthouse. 

“In most cases, you have one way in and one way out,” he explained. “That can be a challenge with a fire.” 

Jones County’s jail has been grandfathered in when it comes to state jail standards. 

“You’re doing the best you can,” Davis said. “But it doesn’t meet current jail standards. The physical layout makes it difficult.” 

Davis said it’s ideal to have someone viewing the jail security monitors at all times 24/7 to see what’s going on rather than relying on physical checks. 

“That person should not be getting up and doing other things,” he said. 

He praised the county for having the Dispatchers as a back-up set of eyes inside the jail. 

“That’s a good plus to have,” said Davis. “But it’d be a red flag if Dispatch was running the jail.” 

Ideally, more jail staff is needed between 5 and 9 a.m. due to shift changes. 

“That’s when things are most active,” said Davis. 

In addition to someone sitting at the monitors, there should also be someone moving through the jail facility on a regular basis. 

“They can help if there’s an incident while the person stays at the monitor station,” Davis explained. 

He said a third staff member should also be on hand during the 5-9 a.m. timeslot. 

At the prior supervisors meeting, Graver shared that the jail has six full-time employees, including the jail administrator, and two part-time. He clarified at the Sept. 10 meeting that LeMense cannot be considered as one of the full-time jailers. 

Davis said an ideal situation would require 12 staff members in the jail. “This is the minimum of what we see in a new jail,” he said. 

Graver said the timing of the staff analysis concerns him, with a visit by the state jail inspector planned for Sept. 26. 

“There is no way we can continue to run the facility with that amount of staff, period,” said Graver of the current numbers. 

Due to medical leave, LeMense said they are down to only three full-time jailers and two part-time. 

“We might have to start planning to house (inmates) outside of the county,” warned Graver. 

While a third part-time jailer was recently hired, Graver said it would take time to train the person. 

Hiring an additional five full-time jailers, noted Graver, would be a big financial burden on the county. 

“I didn’t budget for that,” he said. 

Knowing the jail inspector is coming, Graver wanted to have a plan of action to present concerning the deficit in staff. 

County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said if the county has been put on notice concerning the staffing issues, it’s best to address it sooner rather than later. 

“At the very least, you need a strategic plan,” suggested Lyons. 

He said even if the county were to hire five full-time jailers all at once, it would not be ideal due to the training involved. 

“A lot of small jails are having staffing issues in the state,” said Graver. “That’s why you see new jails being built.” (Delaware County just passed a bond for a new jail.) 

“Our staff is getting burnt out with overtime,” said LeMense. 

The board approved the hiring of two additional full-time jailers, which ultimately just replaces the two who are out on medical leave. 

“It’s a good start,” Graver said, thanking the board for the support. 

This comes at a cost of roughly $60,000 per jailer, with employee benefits. 

The board’s approval also includes providing the funding from the General Fund for the additional wages. 

Graver said he would like to stagger the hiring of potentially four more full-time jailers. 

“We need to look at what funds are available and how we can cover it moving forward,” he said. 

Graver and LeMense said they’ve been implementing different procedures to save the county money concerning the jail. Going to video visits with the inmates has been a big money saver. 


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