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Problems at Jackson Co jail could cost taxpayers

Posted: 4:31 AM, Sep 16, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-16 05:31:14-04
Problems at the Jackson County Detention Center could cost taxpayers much more to fix.
 
After at least four reports of excessive force and an FBI investigation, the county gathered an independent task force to make recommendations for other issues at the jail.
 
 
Like the majority of inmates at the detention center, Patricia Melbert spent time there awaiting trial.
 
Prosecutors charged Melbert after she returned home from work to find her boyfriend had abused her son.
 
“He would not let me leave the house,” she said. 
 
Melbert spent four months inside the jail until a judge lowered her bond.
 
“I've never been arrested for anything," Melbert said. "I've never been in trouble for anything. so when I actually did get in there and saw what they were going through, first hand experience, I was like this is ridiculous."
 
 
Out of only a handful of complaints that the county filed in 2015, her aunt’s request finally made it through.
 
Melbert said her grievances were returned to her saying, “Pretty much like ‘we don’t care.”
 
She said it took more than two months to be approved for her first visit.
 
It’s issues like this that the task force are investigating
 
Eric Jaeger spent more than 25 years working in prisons across the country and recently retired as a Federal Bureau of Prisons Investigator.
 
Jaeger said it’s issues like this that he finds troubling, because if the simple things are going wrong, it may not be the only problems. 
 
"What are the other things?” he asks. 
 
 
The retired investigator provided reports and recommendations to problematic facilities. He said fixing training and salary issues are the easy parts.
 
“You want to be able to pay them and provide benefits, so you can retain them. If you have a constant turnover, it's actually costing more than what you would be paying at a higher wage,” said Jaeger.
 
However, it’s the lawsuits that come out of inhumane conditions at jails that end up costing the most.
 
“That's the feeding frenzy on the backside. They put themselves in a very, very bad situation for every taxpayer over there,” said Jaeger.
 
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Shannon Halligan can be reached at shannon.halligan@kshb.com .

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