Cass jail rates high in statePublished 9:40am Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS – Cass County Sheriff’s Office Jail is the only such agency in 83 Michigan counties 100-percent compliant with administrative rules and housing requirements nine years in a row through the Department of Corrections, Capt. Richard Affriseo reported to the Board of Commissioners Thursday night.
“We’re currently one of only 44 counties that are compliant,” Affriseo stated, “and one of 33 counties where all correctional staff have met all annual training requirements and are certified from going to academies. We’re one of only 25 counties that are compliant in both of these areas.”
Michigan law requires that each officer receive 160 hours in correctional academies and complete at least 20 hours.
“Three things 99 percent of all inmates across the United States have in common, whether it’s prisons or county jails, are substance abuse problems with drugs and alcohol, they dropped out of high school and they lack respect for authority,” Affriseo said.
In response, the sheriff’s office incorporates many rehabilitation programs inside the facility at little cost to the county, such as Forgotten Man Ministries, adult education, which graduates an average of 10 a year with diplomas, a meth group and a Woodlands drug addiction group for drug and alcohol problems.
A new program, Navigators, targets those inmates about to be released into the community. Volunteers try to make them think about what has landed them behind bars, what they want to do with the rest of their lives and to change their ways.
When the “new” jail opened in May 1990, 55 inmates transferred over from the 1958 jail adjacent to the 1899 courthouse, strip-searched them to prevent contraband and issued new uniforms.
Affriseo’s staff includes four sergeants, 18 corrections officers and two to four part-timers.
Functions of the jail start with the safety and security of the community, as well as the inmates. That is accomplished by preventing escapes.
The jail is rated for 116 inmates. The average daily population over the last four years has been 126 – 10 over.
In 2008, intake of 2,225 included 1,660 males and 565 females, an average daily population of 130.7, including 129.4 from Cass County.
These included 128 Cass County domestic violence bookings, 98 domestic violence bookings for other agencies, 148 Cass County drunken driving bookings and 125 for other agencies. The jail served 142,502 meals and collected $3,943 in bond fees and $23,013.45 in booking fees.
“One trend is that females have gone up over the years,” he said. “Forty to 50 women changes the structure. We were set up to house 15 women. At the beginning of this year we had 30 women. We’re seeing more women because of the meth problem. We’re seeing more women come for longer stays and we’re seeing more women go to prison.”
Booking fees “we’re very aggressive about because those train the staff,” he said. “No funds come out of the general fund to train the Jail Division staff. The bonding fee or warrant fee is posted by the person coming into our facility. They have to pay a $10 processing fee that stays with the county.”
If a person spends more than three days in jail, the nurse must find out their medical history.
After 14 days, the law requires a physical. That is 800 to 1,000 people a year and almost 600 a year, respectively. She also handles daily sick calls, sets up medications and identifies diabetics and seizure problems. “She’s busy,” Affriseo said of nurse Sue Kent.
“Congratulations on running such an efficient operation and partnering with other agencies in the county to put it all together,” said Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, asking the jail administrator what constitutes a “typical day’s menu.”
“They get about 2,600 calories a day,” Affriseo said. Breakfast might consist of eggs or pancakes.
“We eliminated coffee because it’s not nutritional. If they want coffee, they buy it in the commissary,” which in 2008 yielded a $12,039.23 commission.
“They do a fantastic job over there,” commented Commissioner Minnie Warren, D-Pokagon Township. “I want to commend you for the ones you see in the paper all the time graduating.”
Affriseo responded, “Programs are important. A lot of people say, ‘You’re coddling inmates.’ You know what? They come in a broken person and a detriment to our society, to our community. Why not provide services and give them the tools they lack? Whether or not they use them, that’s another choice. If they sat in our jail for a year and we did nothing, we didn’t do the community a service. Many of our programs are of very little cost to the county or to the Sheriff’s Office.”