National Jail Expo Highlights Changes in Inmate Life

Posted at 1:07 PM, May 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-13 08:41:47-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– It’s not something you think you’ll ever need to know about unless someone close to you is arrested and sent to jail. Law enforcement in West Michigan learned cutting edge jail technology and inmate health care during the 32nd Annual American Jail Association Training Conference and Jail Expo.

As Kalamazoo County prepares to open its new jail… it’s about to make a big change as far as how inmates and jailers interact.

Instead of the traditional cell blocks and bars, jails are becoming more interactive. And the American Jail Association’s Jail Expo couldn’t come at a better time, according to Lt Amy Price.

“One of the workshops we’ve gone to is on direct supervision which is where we are learning toward.” said Lt. Price. “We’re loking at opening it up very soon and there’s been a lot of good information as far as strategies we can work with to make it run safer.”

“Most jails push for direct supervision, in which the officer is housed right in the unit in an open environment like a college setting and the inmates are out walking around all day until bed,” said Esteban Gonzalez, President of American Jail Association. “We try to have a normal living environment as normal as possible while still staying safe in our institution.”

Making an inmate’s jail stay as normal as possible may not fit our traditional views of how being locked up should be. But jails and prisons are a multi-billion dollar industry. With needs for things like bendable pencils and toothbrushes.

And, law enforcement say the way inmates are treated is crucial for everyone, with the effects reaching out into your community.

“Theres everything from popcorn to soda to honeybuns,” said Gonzales. “While you may not think is very healthy, its stuff they can purchase in order to make their stay a little bit easier. People say why do that? Theyre in jail for a reason. If they have an easier stay, they will comply with the rules and itll be safer for them and staff.”

Those attending the conference also learned about some of the most cutting edge in technology, like GPS to track inmates, which has a big impact on public safety.