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Detention specialist outlines jail issues
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There were more than 1,300 Warren County residents at some stage of the incarceration process during a one-day visit in March from detention specialist Bob Bass.
Bass presented his findings to county officials this week during a Jail Oversight Committee meeting.
“When we use this verbiage ‘correctional populations’ that’s put out there as an eye-opener,” Bass said. “There were 1,368 people actively involved in this county alone on the one day I was here. What that means is they’re in this jail, they’re in our custody, they’re on probation or parole, or in some kind of community corrections program.”
Bass made a visit to Warren County Jail in March as part of a new state program to help corrections facilities stay in compliance. The county volunteered to participate to help stay ahead of any potential problems.
An overview of the number of individuals currently active in the system such as inmates, trustees, those on parole and probation and under house arrest provided committee members with a glimpse of the size and scope of operation.
Bass suggested an increase in the number of jail staff could help alleviate some of the problems with security, destruction of jail property, and maintenance. He recommended the county consider hiring more corrections officers, add a full-time jail maintenance position and an assistant jail administrator.
Bass provided a snapshot of the jail on the day he visited that included information collected during staff interviews, a tour of the jail, and reports from the jail management system.
Some concerns addressed were jail overcrowding, the destruction of property by inmates, facility maintenance, lack of programs for inmates, recidivism rates, insufficient staffing, and staff turnover.
In terms of the issue of turnover rates for staff, Bass recommended exit interviews as a way to collect data to help better understand why employees are leaving.
“There is a lot of money and training invested in the staff, and I know we want to keep them,” he said.
Other recommendations focused on disciplinarian issues and inmate programs. Bass recommended the county beef up its disciplinary hearings for inmates who violate the rules to help mitigate some of the issues they have had with inmates damaging jail property.
He also suggested county officials consider implementing new programs and encouraged them to continue the re-entry program that was proving to have some success in reducing recidivism rates before program funding was depleted. 
“Inmates have 24-7 to sit back there and figure out ways to tear things up,” Bass said. “I’m big on pro-grams. They help keep inmates from being idle and there are other benefits.”
Sheriff Jackie Matheny said the department is working on obtaining grant funding to help continue the re-entry program. He said many of the individuals helped by the program last year are still working. 
“Of those who went through the program and have been released, more than 30 are still employed and only one of those individuals has come back into the system,” Matheny said.
Some physical maintenance issues primarily concerning lighting were discussed with the recommendation the county work with Shelby County Division of Correction to resolve those and other issues.
Shelby County Corrections has volunteered to come to Warren County to assist with maintenance is-sues. Sheriff Matheny and the County Corrections Partnership committee expressed their gratitude for Shelby County and their willingness to come here and help.
Bass complimented the jail on its kitchen and kitchen staff, stating it is was one of the cleanest and most well run he has ever seen. He also noted the kitchen was overbuilt when the jail was designed and could accommodate more inmates should the jail expand in the future.
After concluding his presentation, Bass offered to provide a program called “Jail Educational Program” that takes the layperson through everything that is done in a jail setting and why. He advised committee members the program is free of charge and can be shown to the full Warren County Commission or anyone else interested in learning about how the jail operates. Sheriff Matheny said he would like to see the program shown to every county official. Committee members also expressed an interest in the program.