Fixing the jail: SCCC works to implement changes from 2012 report
Feb 23, 2013 (The Jamestown Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Changes have been made and more are on the way at the Stutsman County Correctional Center -- many the result of a consultant's jail study done in 2012.
"It's actually going pretty well," said Tracey Trapp, jail administrator, adding that the transition process has been fairly smooth.
Consultant David Prachar presented his 90-page report in August last year, recommending a series of changes for the jail touching on almost every area of its operations and its staffing.
Since then, jail officials have been working on implementing those changes, some exactly as presented and others tweaked to better fit the SCCC.
Since Feb. 1, correctional officers and sergeants have been assigned to fixed posts within the jail, meaning that they are assigned to specific locations with specific duties for each station.
So far, that change in staffing patterns has gone well, though it's still "a work in progress," and the orders for each post can still be fine-tuned if necessary, Trapp said.
According to Casey Bradley, auditor/chief operating officer of Stutsman County, the new staffing pattern and other staffing changes should help the jail reduce its staff hours from 66,000 in a year to 53,000.
Stutsman County officials commissioned the jail study after they found that the SCCC was on track to have a massive budget deficit.
So far, the budget fixes are on track, Bradley said.
The jail's budget is $2.46 million for 2013, down from its approved 2012 budget of $2.55 million -- but up from the $2.38 million that was actually spent in 2012.
"We finished in the black last year," Bradley said, noting that many of the changes that resulted from the jail study began in 2012.
That included staffing changes implemented in October, which increased the number of sergeants at the jail.
"There's a supervisor on each shift, a sergeant on each shift," Trapp said.
Trapp also has a new deputy administrator since Oct. 1 -- Darin Goter, who had been a sergeant at the jail.
As deputy administrator, Goter has been the point person on a new training program for jail staff -- another of Prachar's recommendations.
"We have implemented a couple training programs. It's coming together pretty nice. I haven't heard any negatives on it yet," Goter said.
Much of the training is online, allowing correctional officers to work on it whenever it is most convenient. Trapp said he's received positive feedback from staff about the program.
A $1 shift differential in wages has been added for people working at night, and the county has moved more toward full-time positions rather than relying so much on part-time workers.
"We've actually seen the number of applicants (for jobs in the jail) increase," Bradley said.
He hopes the fund balance situation will be completely turned around in three to four years, though some of that depends on inmate numbers.
Trapp said that despite the reduction in staff hours, the jail remains "as safe as a jail can be."
"We've got the (staff) coverage that we need. It's just having one or two less people when it might be a busy time might put strain on the staff," Goter said. "Tracey and I do help out a lot."
Trapp and Bradley both praised staff members at the jail for their patience and willingness to make the recommended changes.
"They've done a tremendous job," Bradley said. "They've went through quite a bit of change in the past year."
More changes are in the works, too.
For example, Trapp and SCCC officials are working on implementing video visitation in the future.
Video visitation will be offered for free from within the Law Enforcement Center, but eventually, people will be able to visit with prisoners online for a fee. That means fewer security concerns for correctional officers and more convenience for visitors.
Jail officials are also continuing their work updating the SCCC's policies and procedures manual.
"Transition is a difficult thing, but we've got very good staff, and they're who enable the changes to be made," Trapp said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com
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