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Chapter VI

City jail operations commended by analysts

This is the sixth and final segment of a six-part series that delves into a performance and management review of the Sunnyside Police Department, commissioned by the Sunnyside City Council at a cost of about $50,000.

Based on how the other operations of the Sunnyside Police Department fared in a comprehensive study conducted by Austin, Texas-based MGT of America, the management of the city jail is a shining star from which the local PD can hang its hat.

Chapter six of the 131-page study focuses on the Sunnyside city jail, specifically the major issues that deal primarily with staffing and revenue.

In the entire report there are only five commendations issued by the analysts, compared to more than three dozen formal recommendations that are intended to correct deficiencies. Of the five commendations total, three appear in chapter six, and all three are indicators that a short-handed staff at the city jail is operating above and beyond expectations.

The first of the three formal commendations sums it up well. MGT analysts say, "The jail facility is well maintained and organized, and it is able to serve the city for many more years."

The researchers continue by saying that by all appearances, the jail facility is in good shape. "The department has done a good job maintaining the jail and keeping it well organized.

"Given its use, and the propensity for such facilities to undergo a great deal of wear and tear, the department is commended on its upkeep," they added.

The Sunnyside PD operates a 97-bed jail facility, designed to hold both short and long-term adult inmates. In addition to the cells and beds in the housing area, the jail has numerous individual and group holding cells. Besides those areas, the jail features a kitchen with cold and dry storage areas, a control center room, a visitation area, an outdoor recreation area, a sleeping area for trustees, an intake/booking area and storage space.

MGT officials, in reviewing the jail records, learned that the staff there processes about 3,000 offenders each year.

Cross training

MGT next praises the cross training of new staff members at the jail, noting that based on the overtime data they reviewed, that practice has resulted in a reduced reliance on overtime, as well as in spreading overtime over more staff. The cross training, they say, should help minimize work-related fatigue caused by too many hours worked without sufficient rest periods.

The jail is staffed on a 24/7 basis - by one administrative corrections officer, a sergeant, two corporals, four corrections officers and four civilian communications officers. MGT analysts say because the four corrections officers have dual responsibilities for jail security and relieving dispatchers, their cross training for communications duties reduces the reliance on overtime.

"Recently, three of the four dispatchers were on leave and their shifts had to be covered by correctional officers and the other dispatcher. If staff were not cross trained, only one dispatcher would have been available and the situation would have been chaotic," the analysts noted in the study.

Reducing reliance on overtime

Jail management and staff are singled out for praise again in a third formal commendation - when the study's analysts commended them on reducing reliance on overtime and maintaining critical operational performance, "...with arguably very few staff while using overtime sparingly."

MGT personnel said the staff at the jail does a relatively good job of adhering to the city's policy of avoiding the need for overtime work and by keeping authorized overtime to a minimum.

The analysts noted this is especially impressive, "...compared with the amount of overtime earned in other areas of the department.

"Given the limited number of staff assigned to the jail, this is no small achievement," the analysts added.

Recommendations

Although the city jail operations generally received high marks, MGT of America found numerous areas where improvements can be made. Those suggestions included:

...Assessing the video surveillance equipment and upgrading the system to enhance jail security and safety for inmates, visitors and staff. The study points out that the images on the video screens are grainy, making it difficult to clearly see the images on the monitors.

...Properly staffing the jail 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for both employee and inmate safety. The analysts said the number of staff on-site is often at or below two correctional officers, which MGT officials said they consider the minimum staffing requirements during most hours of the day.

...Revising policies and procedures to require a full inmate medical screening and initial classification on a regular basis. The analysts said the medical screening instrument in the Spillman jail management system is not being used, that correctional officers appear to only undertake a brief visual inspection and then carry on with processing the inmate. The MGT personnel also noted that it does not appear that inmates are being formally classified, other than noting gang allegiance.

...Hiring an additional dispatcher and assigning that person to a floater shift, to allow relief coverage in the control room during scheduled long-term absences of existing dispatch personnel.

...Establishing a task force of jail and city staff to determine why inmate contracts with other cities and the U.S. Marshal's Office are being lost and why the average days served by contract inmates are declining. The analysts noted that the total number of inmates booked into the city jail had dropped from 3,509 in 2007 to an estimated 2,820 in 2011, roughly a 20 percent decline, which greatly affected anticipated revenues.

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