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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Sheriff's Department explains why a new jail is needed

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Planners of the proposed new jail for Cherokee County, including members of the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors and the Cherokee Sheriff's Department, along with the Cherokee County Jail Planning committee, have stated that the main reason that Cherokee County needs a new jail is centered around safety.

Cherokee County Chief Deputy Jeff Friedrichsen is pictured in the Booking Room at the Cherokee County Jail. The 106 square-foot room also doubles as the laundry facility for the jail. A cramped facility is just one of the reasons the Sheriff's Department is asking for a new jail. Photo by Mike Leckband
According to Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Friedrichsen, the issue boils down to jailers having less face-to-face contact with the inmates. "Safety of the jailer is, bar none, the reason we're doing this. To work in this jail is unsafe," said Friedrichsen.

"One example is that we have nowhere to put an unruly inmate. There is no spot to keep them separated from the other inmates," stated Friedrichsen. "The honest truth is, we are living on borrowed time. The implication of something happening is huge."

Friedrichsen described how they are not dealing with old fashioned criminals anymore.

Extra beds line the hallway in the entrance to the men's cell house at the Cherokee County Jail. Storage space for equipment and supplies are issues that the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department regularly deals with. Photo by Mike Leckband
In 1998, the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) was created by the Sexually Violent Predators Act of Iowa to provide secure, in-patient treatment for sexual offenders who are believed to be a high risk for sexually re-offending. In-patient treatment is indefinite, with the length of commitment dependent upon the time required for each individual to complete the criteria for advancement through five treatment phases.

CCUSO provides a secure, long-term, and highly structured setting to treat sexually violent predators who have served their prison terms, but who, in a separate civil trial, have been found likely to commit further violent sexual offenses.

The CCUSO is located in Cherokee on the campus of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute, and serves sexually violent predators from all 99 Iowa counties.

As of February, 2009, 79 individuals are committed to the CCUSO, which has a 100-bed capacity. Individuals who are committed to the CCUSO have long-term treatment needs, and it is anticipated that cooperative and motivated individuals could be eligible for discharge within three to five years.

Friedrichsen added, "CCUSO patents are literally unable to be held in society. Our problem arises when they commit a crime in-house so when a new crime happens in Cherokee County, we are force to hold them until there crime is sorted out and they are in our jail for a couple of months or up to a year.

"The CCUSO unit is a good thing for the community as a whole. They bring jobs to this county, but there is a high danger dealing with the patents. While they're up at the CCUSO unit they are patients, but when they are here they're inmates. When you lock these patients in with our regular guests, as you can imagine they don't get along well with each other and again there is no way to keep the two groups separated. That leads to a dangerous environment, especially for the jailers, who have to go in and break up a disturbance," said Friedrichsen.

He added, "There are really no excuses for us not to have a safe working environment for the jailers. The public has to help the county to do that. Every business out there is expected to provide safe working conditions for their employees. We should do the same.

"I understand that the price for building a new facility shocks people, but it could end up costing a lot more if something does happen. One lawsuit alone would cost taxpayers a lot more than the cost of a new jail," stated Friedrichsen.

"We are trying to do what's best for the taxpayers, that is why we just can't add on to the existing jail. If there was a addition to the jail, everything in that jail would have to be brought up to code - electric, plumbing, everything- and a lot has changed in the last 25 years and it would cost that much more" said Friedrichsen.

"Getting the best deal for the taxpayer is also the reason why we want to spilt cost with the city. It would cost that much more for taxpayers if they were to be incorporated with the new jail," said Friedrichsen.

As reported in previous articles in the Chronicle Times, the city would have to pay 25 percent of the construction cost of the proposed new jail if they remained with the county.

The current jail was originally built as the Rural Electric Administration building in 1951-52. The building was added onto in the early 1980's and was redesigned as a jail, offices and communication center for both the city and county of Cherokee. It has 12 beds and employs four jailers and one part-time jailer.

"One more important fact is that we are truly at the mercy of the State of Iowa's Jail Inspector. Each year we are just barely in compliance with the State. The only reason we are in compliance is the fact that we have been in continuous use and have been making the best of what we have," said Friedrichsen.

The Chronicle Times was provided with copies of the Iowa Jail Inspector report for 2006 and 2007, in which both reports comment, "The Classification and separation of prisoners as required by IAC 201-50.13 (1) is difficult due to the design of the jail. Jail Administrator Marlene Ebert states that prisoners are moved to other facilities if the required separation of prisoners cannot be accomplished at the Cherokee County Jail.

The reports also recommended that the jail "Continue to move prisoners to a facility that can provide the required separation if separation cannot be accomplished in the Cherokee County Jail."

The reports also had additional comments, including "The jail staff is doing a good job in a facility that was not designed for current needs."

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