DREARY --- Conditions at Crawford County Jail in Girard typify dreariness of many jails. Hole in celing, above, was an escape route for some who decided to do more than just sleep or sit. At left is a juvenile's bunk.
MOST KANSAS JAILS ZOOISH
The Parade magazine with today's Eagle and Beacon reports on "The Shame of Our County Jails." It describes them as a scandal and disgrace to the nation. Here's a report on how Kansas jails compare:
A few months ago a prisoner in Labette County Jail tore strips from a mattress cover and hanged himself. He was emotionally disturbed and might have taken his life away. But his stay in the county jail didn't improve his mental health.
Kansas jails, like most anywhere in the nation, are dismal, dingy, dark and depressing. With a few exceptions, most of the 123 city and county jails in the state are no better than zoos.
This isn't always the fault of the harried sheriffs who run most of the jails. The problem is an out-of-date system which is grossly underfinanced.
The state's jails are designed to hold a little more than 3,000 inmates, but the average population is an estimated 1,010, according to a jail census conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Most of these inmates are in the dozen or so densely populated counties. Some county jails in small towns are empty much of the time.
That drives up the per-capita cost of keeping prisoners to an alarming degree.
Sheriff Junior Pape of Chautauqua County seldom has more than three in his jail in Sedan, Kan. "I only have one in there now," he said.
"I don't want any more than I have to, because I just don't have the help to supervise them." His undersheriff quit last week, leaving Pape to supervise the jail alone.
"If I know the person, I wait until Sunday night to put him in jail," said Pape. "That way he's ready for court Monday morning. He's with his family a little longer and he costs the people less money."
Pape said he didn't want to be sheriff but took the job because no one else wanted it and because he thought he might be able to help young people.
"I don't blame the undersheriff for leaving," he said. "All he made was $335 a month and what he could get from feeding the prisoners. There's a lot better jobs."
A system that ignores the jails because they're unpleasant and because they cost too much forces sheriffs to skimp on the prisoners' food to supplement their own income.
Counties pay from $1 to $3 a day per prisoner on the average. The high cost of food has just about eliminated the prisoners' food budget as a supplement to the sheriff's income. Many have gone to a contract system whereby food is provided by a restaurant.
Most county jails are in disrepair because county commissioners fear taxpayers. The jail is a likely place to economize because it is easily ignored.
Sheriff's say that few county commissioners ever bother to visit the local jail. It's unpleasant and easier on the conscience if you tell yourself it doesn't exist, said one sheriff.
Chautauqua County recently spent $600 on plumbing, Pape said. That is money that can't be spent where something else goes wrong.
Mrs. David L. Kern, the wife of the sheriff, is jailer and cook for Neosho County Jail at Erie, Kan. "I run this jail the best I can," she said.
"I wanted the commissioners to buy us a freezer so we could buy meat by the side and save money. They wouldn't do it. I use my own pots and pans and my own silverware.
"The water pipes and the plumbing are ridiculous. I have no help at all. My refrigerator went zonk, and I can't get it fixed because there isn't enough money.
"The county commissioners give us $4,000 a year out of the general fund to run this jail for a year. It took $1,000 just to get it cleaned up when we moved in.
"There was a hole in the ceiling of our apartment where a light fixture was hanging. Urine from the jail above dripped through there into the kitchen."
Many sheriffs --- Pape is one --- think regionalism is the answer. A few capita cost could be reduced.
"Each community having its own jail is a bad situation," said Joseph A. Ruskowitz, corrections specialist for the Governor's Committee on Criminal Administration. "It's bad because some communities can't afford or refuse to pay for the kind of jail they ought to have."
What is needed, he said, is a profile of the average offender, the type of offense, his needs, how long he is kept and other information. Such a survey is u nder way and the results are to be computerized so conclusions can be drawn on what type of regional jails are needed.
"Training is also important," Ruskowitz said. "We have neglected the turnkey or the deputy who supervises county prisoners."
The first of a series training sessions for jailers was last week at Washburn University, Topeka, Ruskowitz said.
Ruskowitz thinks some minimum standards need to be set for local jails. If provisions of the penal reform law are carried out, such standards will be set by the state penal director.
Acting Director John Hazelett said much depends on whether that jails that would get relatively heavy use could be better maintained and the per provision of Senate Bill 72 is funded. "We have requested funds for an one-the-spot check of all the jail facilities in the state," Hazelett said.
"The first year we will need an inventory then we can set standards. This could eliminate some of our worst jails and could be a step toward regionalism.
"At first we may adapt the minimum standards set by the federal government for the holding of federal prisoners in local jails. If a jail could be certified for federal prisoners, it would qualify for state certification. Later we may look into stronger regulations if they seem justified.
"We think it is important to go easy at first. We may have to settle for something less than the federal standards at first, but even that would be an improvement in many areas."
The per-capita costs of keeping prisoners in most local jails is prohibitive if the jail makes an honest effort to provide the basics, Hazelett said.
Until the basics are provided, jails will continue to be like zoos.
PENAL PERSPECTIVE OF STATE SPOTTY
STANTON COUNTY JAIL
Only one place worse than Hell,
That's ole Stanton County Jail.
Can't get out even with bail,
Lawyers try it and they all fail.
Lose some weight and your stomach will purr,
It happens in Johnson, that's for sure.
Just ask me all and I'll tell,
If I ever get out of Stanton County Jail.
Hell, it's not bad, give her a try,
Meet a new pal with a busted eye.
The door just opened, here comes a drunk,
Gotta run fast or I'll lose my bunk.
Sweep the floors and wash the cars,
Treat 'em nice, then go back to the bars.
Walk in a circle or read a book,
Caught me with a weed and that's all it took.
Take a shower, then lay in bed,
Visions of your girl running through your head.
Yea, it's too late that I know,
Whatta helluva place for your hair to grow.
---By a Prisoner
|HAMILTON COUNTY JAIL AT SYRACUSE IS ONE OF THE POOREST AND OLDEST IN THE STATE
....Built before 1900, it intrudes on schoolground and is used only for weekend drunks ....
For a broad perspective of local penal facilities throughout Kansas, a team of Eagle - Beacon reporters visited 20 percent of the 123 city and county jails in the state. Here is a digest of the dispatches from Ted Blankenship, Bill Henry, Darrell Morrow and John Petterson.
AT GIRARD ....
Despite three jailers providing 24-hour supervision, Crawford County Jail is so rickety that 10 inmates have broken out in the past 15 months.
Built in 1909, the jail was renovated in 1965 but effects of that aren't apparent. Weak bars have been welded, ventilation ducts sealed and the largest holes in the walls repaired, but the possibility of a jailbreak is ever present.
Women and juveniles are provided facilities separate but just as repulsive as the rest of the jail. A new water heater installed last month enabled inmates to take hot showers for the first time in weeks.
Deputy Randal Pommier credits Sheriff Joe Fry with doing the best he can with what the county provides. But Fry's repeated requests for a new jail have been turned down by the county commission.
IN ERIE ....
Prisoners spending more than a few days at Neosho County Jail usually are heavier when released. The jailer is Mrs. David Kern, the sheriff's wife, who believes in feeding the inmates well. Too well, Undersheriff Arden Hammans indicates.
But if the prisoners are happy, Mrs. Kern reasons, they aren't as likely to cause her trouble. For $2.25 per prisoner per day, she feeds them the same food as her family --- plus candy bars and snacks as often as she can manage.
The jail is 25 years old with plumbing breaking down frequently.
AT OSWEGO ....
Labette County Jail, built in 1949, is dark and dingy with sheet metal shutting out most of the light. The depressing atmosphere isn't the fault of the young sheriff, Carl Cloke, 35, --- it's just the way the jail was built.
Cloke took office the first of the year. His brother, Jim, a deputy, said cleaning up was one of their first acts. Drains had been plugged, with dirt everywhere. Though certainly not spotless, it's cleaner now and the plumbing works.
Allowed $2 a day per prisoner for food, the sheriff buys the food and the inmates prepare it.
IN TOPEKA ....
Shawnee County Jail has ---- more than any other in the state ---- used funds from the Governor's Committee on Criminal Administration to upgrade its facilities and programs. And it's regarded as one of the best in the state.
"We have been able to clean up the place (built in 1965) and introduce programs that provide a service to the inmates," said Richard Mills, director of jail administration and related services.
New emphasis has been placed on rehabilitation for inmates, whose average confinement is 50 days. "Personally, I believe these programs cut down on escapes (one this year) because the pressure is off," said Mills. "The inmate just doesn't have time to sit there and think about his problems."
An educational program prepared those who want to take the test to earn a high school equivalency certificate. A work-release program allows inmates to work in the community during the day while returning to the jail at night.
A counselor is employed to assist prisoners in making initial adjustments and entering the various programs provided. A variety of religious activities are offered by volunteer ministers.
A doctor comes in two days a week, and a registered nurse is on duty more than 30 hours a week.
AT JUNCTION CITY ....
Sheriff Jim Gross says he needs more room in Geary County Jail, built in 1951. Capacity is 20 to 25 prisoners, depending on how they are segregated. He says he tries to keep hardened criminals separate from minor offenders.
Gross is responsible for feeding inmates with the $2.10 per day he receives per prisoner. From that, in addition to food cost, he must pay a cook more than $300 a month. "My wife prepares the meals on Sunday," he said.
The jail has living quarters for two families. A deputy lives in one section and the Grosses in the other.
Trustees work outside the jail on occasion and have use of a television set. Gross runs a commissary once a week.
The sheriff commended doctors in the community for their cooperation in treating prisoners.
IN EMPORIA ....
Undersheriff Norman DePonte isn't pleased that Lyon County county prisoners are kept in the city jail because the county doesn't have one.
For one thing, he says, there are no full-time jailers, so prisoners don't get proper supervision. They are checked twice a day and otherwise left to themselves.
The county gets all the felons, DePonte said, while most city prisoners are drunks, and all are thrown together.
Sometimes a county prisoner is assaulted by a city prisoner, DePonte said, and the sheriff has been sued on at least four occasions because of that.
Plans are being made for a new law enforcement center with a county jail a part of it. Separate facilities are provided women and juveniles, but the county would like to build a detention center for young offenders.
The county pays the city a stipend for each prisoner housed. Meals come from a restaurant for $1.50 each. No regular medical care is provided by the city. Inmates can be taken to a hospital for examination by a nurse who may call a doctor if it is deemed necessary.
AT MARION ....
The tile-roofed, two-story brick Marion County Jail, built in 1932, appears much like a well-kept home. And its first floor is home for the undersheriff and his wife.
She buys, prepares and serves the three-a-day meals for $2.50 a day per prisoner. Average population is three prisoners a day though there's room for 16 in the three cells on the second floor.
The undersheriff's wife also acts as part-time matron, but there often is no supervision in the jail which is separate from the courthouse where Sheriff June Yost's office is located. "We check the jail at least three times a day when we are serving meals and at night the undersheriff or his wife can hear any kind of call for help in case of illness or disturbance," Yost said.
He's concerned that the jail's steam heating system hasn't been operating well and that the pipes need improvement.
IN YATES CENTER ....
Sheriff Frank Bennington takes pride that Woodson County Jail was built in 1969 to replace a condemned structure built in 1898.
It's small, but attractive for a jail with a varied color scheme, terazzo floors and picnic-style tables. Though it has no windows, it's air conditioned and light comes through barred skylights.
Water for bathing is controlled from outside the barred shower. That prevents flooding by inmates.
Juveniles are taken to Iola rather than kept in the jail, because there aren't enough deputies to provide 24-hour supervision.
Food prepared by a restaurant is brought to the jail twice a day on the $1.15 per meal allowance.
AT WINFIELD ....
Cowley County Jail is modern --- 11 years old --- with capacity of 72, including eight women. Separate facilities are used for juveniles.
Sheriff Fred Satterthwhite is particularly proud of his work-release program. Two prisoners are serving one-year sentences and both are on work-release.
Inmates not on work-release are permitted to work in the jail, receiving $5 a day toward reducing fines.
The sheriff's wife draws up menus, and buys the groceries for the meals the inmates prepare. The city library lends books to prisoners and donates surplus books to the jail library. Satterthwhite plans to purchase two television sets for inmate entertainment.
A prisoner hasn't escape Cowley County Jail in more than a year. Three jailers provide 24-hour supervision.
IN BELOIT ....
Mitchell County Jail is part of what has become a city-county law enforcement center. Police and sheriff's officers worked in off-duty hours with the help of volunteers to built a police station added to the sheriff's office and jail a year ago.
The center is just a few steps from the county courthouse. The sheriff's living quarters are in the jail and his wife prepares prisoner meals. Juveniles always are kept separate, said Undersheriff Gary Reiter. Women radio dispatchers act as matrons in handling female prisoners. Buzzers in each cell permit inmates to contact staff.
In exceptional cases, prisoners with jobs have been allowed to work during the day and return to the jail in the evening, Reiter said.
AT HAYS ....
Ellis County Sheriff Clarence Werth is looking ahead to this time next year when construction will be underway on a city-county jail that may cost up to $1 million.
The present jail is on the top floor of the courthouse built in 1942. "Our capacity is 25, but anytime we get over 15 we are crowded," Werth said. The new jail, to be behind the courthouse, will handle 75.
Werth said he often must send women prisoners to other county jails because of difficulties in segregating inmates. The new jail will provide separate areas for women and juveniles.
Other features of the new air-conditioned building will be a room for night classes for prisoners, and quarters for a full-time jailer.
Werth receives $3 a day per prisoner to provide two meals a day. They're prepared by his wife in their quarters in the courthouse basement. She also serves as jail matron.
IN DIGHTON ....
Lane County Jail has a capacity of 16, but it stands empty most of the time. A separated section for women has been used only twice in 10 years, each time for temporary custody of an alcoholic.
On the fourth floor of the courthouse built in 1930, the jail is in excellent repair and newly painted.
The sheriff or his deputies, whoever is on duty, prepare the meals in the jail's kitchen. Usually they are frozen dinners provided on an allowance of $2.50 per prisoner per day.
AT JETMORE ....
Meal allowances at Hodgeman County Jail have just been raised from $1.50 to $3 per day per prisoner. Why? Because the sheriff's wife threatened to quit cooking for inmates, feed them from a restaurant and send the bill to the county commission.
She cooks three meals daily, serving prisoners the same food her family receives. The food's prepared in the sheriff's apartment alongside the jail on the fourth floor of the courthouse built (unreadable) their living room.
Despite its age, the jail seems in good repair.
Capacity is eight men. Women and juveniles are taken to Ness City or Dodge City.
IN McPHERSON ....
Sheriff Ellis Mussellwhite wants something new for the 14-year-old McPherson County Jail --- a closed-circuit television system.
The need to improve the jail's security became evident when five prisoners escaped during Labor Day weekend. (They were rearrested).
"My problem is I can't get the money to pay for a full-time jailer," Mussellwhite said. An alternative, he said, might be closed-circuit TV financed through federal funds from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.
The women radio dispatchers Mussellwhite employs can look into the jail but not enter it, he said. Poor lighting makes it difficult to view prisoner activities, he added, and it was late on the Tuesday after Labor Day that the escape was discovered by the sheriff.
Some prisoners recently wrote letters to newspapers and complained about food and living conditions in the jail. Mussellwhite says the objections are generally unfounded and he could have kept the letters from being mailed.
The sheriff receives $2.10 per prisoner per day for food which his wife busy, prepares and serves twice a day from the ktichen of the sheriff's quarters.
Musselwhite said he feels fortunate that most of the juvenile he deals with do not have to stay in the jail. "Our county juvenile officer runs a youth center out at the college and many of the runaways we take in can stay there," the sheriff added.
IN SALINA ....
Saline County Jail rates as one of the state's more modern facilities. It's in a city-county cooperative law center opened in 1969.
Chief problem there, officials say, is separating juveniles from general prisoners. Plans have been authorized for transfer of juveniles to the city police section of the cooperative center.
Sheriff Ervin Hindman's wife supervises cooking of meals, aided by trustees. The sheriff receives $2 per prisoner for three meals a day.
The jail is centrally heated and air conditioned. Prisoners can contact the two full-time jailers through an intercom system.
AT ELLSWORTH ....
Ellsworth County Jail is three blocks from the courthouse, but the age gap between the structures is even greater. The courthouse was built in the early 1950s while the jail is circa 1910.
The courthouse was to have included a jail, officials say, but a shortage of funds eliminated that from the plans. A mill levy has raised money for a new jail, but no action has been taken to complete plans for the facility, said Undersheriff Jack Nabors.
Because of the condition of the jail, the county doesn't hesitate to transfer a difficult prisoner to Salina, Nabors said.
A former sheriff and his wife live in the front of the jail. She provides meals three times a day for $2.50 per prisoner.
With two cells downstairs and two up, the second-floor area usually is used for juveniles, particularly the runaways who make up nearly a third of the 100 prisoners handled in the jail each year, Nabors said.
IN DODGE CITY ....
The biggest gripes at Ford County Jail are about the heat in summer, says city-couty jailer Carl Matthews. The jail was built in 1926 and doesn't even have ventilation fans. Plumbing is serviceable but requires frequent repairs.
The first floor includes the sheriff's living quarters, office and cells for women and juveniles. Men are jailed on the second floor.
The sheriff's wife serves prisoners two meals daily, using the same food she prepares for her family.
AT GARDEN CITY ....
Summer heat also is considered a major problem at Finney County Jail. The county commission has been asked to provide air conditioning.
The jail was built alongside and with the courthouse in the 1930s. Despite its age, it's considered secure and is approved for housing federal prisoners. Among former inmates were the men executed for the 1960 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family near Holcomb.
The sheriff's wife fixes breakfast for inmates, serves as matron and also is office deputy. The evening meal is catered from a restaurant, with the total food allowance $2.50 daily per prisoner.
Population is usually four or five, down from the 12 to 15 of past years because courts allow easier bonding.
IN SUBLETTE ....
Haskell County Jail consists of two strap-iron riveted cells moved in 1923 by team and wagon from the old hamlet of Santa Fe to the courthouse basement. Capacity: four men.
The jail is used primarily as a temporary holding pen until prisoners (about 35 a year) can be transported to Liberal or Ulysses. However, prisoners can remain at the jail on request, and some have chosen not to transfer.
Officials say one prisoner even said he liked the solitude of the jail and preferred it to others he had been in. It's clean and is being repainted this fall with new ventilators (it gets too hot in winter as well as summer) and mattresses installed.
The sheriff's wife cooks prisoner meals in her home and takes them to the jail three times daily on a $2.50 per man allowance.
The sheriff's jail calendar, though gapping at 1923, dates to 1889.
AT ULYSSES ....
Opened July 10 with conveniences such as air conditioning and closed-circuit television for surveillance, Grant County Jail handles about 30 prisoners a month. It was funded by a capital improvement levy of $265,000 over five years.
Despite the newness, cells and prisoner areas appear small. They include a juvenile cell with four bunks, a cell for women, a padded cell, and a "bull pen" type cell which has been used to confine 25 Mexican aliens at one time.
Lawyers and ministers can visit prisoners in two small booths with concrete seats and portholes, while the visiting arrangement for others is through a porthole in a stand-up bay.
Staff and trustees prepare the meals, usually frozen, in the jail kitchen. Staff try to provide prisoners some exercise in the garage area when time is available.
The sheriff has voiced a need for 24-hour jailers.
IN SYRACUSE ....
Considered one of the oldest (about 1890, and poorest in the state, Hamilton County Jail is used primarily only to handle weekend drunks. Others are transferred to Kearney County Jail under contract.
The toile at one side has no sink --- only a faucet above a floor drain. Prisoners are provided a washpan.
There's no communication between the jail and the sheriff's office in the courthouse across the street. Staff walk across to make checks every hour or so. Meals are brought in twice daily from a cafe.
Staff are patching stucco and repainting the concrete building.
The jail is near a school where a gymnasium will be built, hemming the jail onto a corner with school buildings on two sides. Though townspeople have complained about that, no one wants to pay for a new jail.
AT JOHNSON ....
Men at Stanton County Jail behind the courthouse keep reasonably cool in summer because their cells are in the basement. Women and juveniles are housed upstairs alongside the sheriff's office, and air conditioning has been authorized for spring installation.
Built in 1925, the jail's prisoner book shows the county's first inmate was admitted in 1891 on a first-degree murder charge. Cells are of hand-riveted strap iron. While clean and uncrowded, the jail does have a dingy appearance. The sheriff wants a tile floor to make it cleaner and brighter.
Rehabilitation programs include Alcoholics Anonymous, work-release and ministerial counseling.
IN LIBERAL ....
Seward County Jail, built in 1957, is maintained by the sheriff for both city and county prisoners. Population averages 8 to 10 a day, but in summer the jail is a collecting point for alien migrants before deportation to Mexico.
An air conditioning system is scheduled by next summer. Cable television is available to inmates.
An escape 2-1/2 years ago was the only jailbreak in the building's 15 years.
Cells for three women or juveniles are out of sight but not out of hearing from the jail proper. The sheriff's wife says she prepares and serves the same food to prisoners and her family.
CHALLENGE VIEWED BY JAIL DESIGNER
|DESIGN CAN IMPROVE JAIL ENVIRONMENT
....In relatively new Yates Center facility....
Architect Wilbur Kruse accepts the designing of jails as a challenge but says the biggest challenge is to get good knowledgeable people interested in jails.
Kruse has participated in at least some phase of the design of 15 jails and prisons in the last 16 years as either the designer or consultant.
One primary step Kruse feels is necessary in improving jails is for the state to set some minimum standards in construction and design of the facilities.
"Jails are still for the primary purpose of securing the person who has violated the law and protecting the citizen," Kruse said.
The architect added that the human approach must enter soon after the security question has been resolved.
"The thing I have been pushing for is to get some state construction regulation of local (county) penal institutions," Kruse said.
Under state law a county constructing a jail, or a courthouse for that matter, can literally disregard city building codes --- if they do exist --- and build in whatever fashion they choose, Kruse said.
"Now the state can do the same thing in the design and construction of their own institutions because state agencies can take precedence over local regulations."
There is a scattering of regulations on jails in the state fire marshal's regulations and duties of inspection, Kruse said, but there's nothing that dictates how much floor space, for instance, a prisoner should have in a county jail.
Kruse wants to see the state make another critical move as well, he said. "I would like to see the state step in immediately when a man is charged with a crime of violence and take the responsibility in holding that person."
The counties have too many "maximum security" type facilities for prisoners who don't need that type of incarceration, Kruse said. If the state could take over the holding of that type of prisoner it would relieve the county jail facility, he added.
"Ideally a jail should be built to separate at least seven to ten different type of offenders." It is absurd, he said, yet it still happens, that a bad check writer gets thrown in with a murderer.
Kruse further advocates more use of psychologists and counselors in designing jails. The architect cited color selection as an example.
"I don't use reds in my drawings but I do rely heavily on champagne colors such as a rich white, blue-greens, bronze golds, navy blues and maroons.
"There's nothing more depressing psychologically than brown-painted bars.
Kruse supports future construction of cottage facilities for prisoners in county institutions.
The architect said in his experience there is no getting around the importance of staff in a jail.
"You'll need a good staff with guts, people who just don't depend on the gun." The architect said that same staff "should go out" with the prisoner when he leaves to make sure he has the right direction and support.
"People are more interested now than ever before so it's time committees were drawn up with more than just two-year sheriffs on them.
"We aren't going to get rid of our problem overnight," the architect added. He could design institutions on end and they would never be the answer in themselves, he concluded.
(Wichita Eagle ~ Sunday ~ November 4, 1973)