There is a building in the middle of the county that, by Idaho statute, must exist and must be staffed. Two groups of people come and go daily from within its windowless walls.
If you have lived here long enough, you may even know a member of the group released daily from the south end of the building, away from Dalton Gardens and the neighborhoods; this can beget great sadness.
There is another group of people who come and go daily. Both groups prefer you don’t know who they are. However, you need to know what the other group faces, day-to-day, willingly.
You and I don’t have to deal with these things at work.
I never took the time as a reserve deputy to learn more about the jail; I spent my time between the sally port and the booking cage.
Last Friday, I had the privilege of spending eight hours alongside B-team at the Kootenai County jail.
Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t go into great detail; here is a glimpse of what our Detention Deputies face.
Knowing that you will likely reach into a toilet today. Not being able to scratch your nose for fear of touching your face. Seeing a pregnant woman with needle marks on her arms. Maintaining your composure, and being so professional that you address the guy who just wanted to fight you, and had to be Tasered, by “Mr. _________”. Not having a decent bathroom where you can take off your body armor to spend 10 minutes in silence. Locking up one of your high school friends. Being a burden to others because there is simply no 24-hour daycare in the county. Knowing for sure an inmate, with whom you spend 12 hours a day, will recognize you and your family at dinner.
And finally, not wanting to share your day with your spouse because you don’t want them to know how difficult your job is.
The gravel ground of the small yard outside the breakroom is the only source of fresh air and sunshine our detention deputies have. At the center of its 18-foot walls sits a tree in a planter.
A young deputy, who moments earlier stood watch alone over a group of inmates, points out the dried seed pods on the tree. While feeling the seedpods of the leafless tree between his thumb and forefinger, he turns to me and says, “you know this tree is very pretty in the summertime”. Young enough to be my son, I see that he notices the slightest things that make his job more bearable. This is what they grasp onto.
At the end of the shift, they gave me a bracelet and said I was a member of their team. Whether or not I win this election, I am going to keep that bracelet.
Please take a moment and Google the phrase “County Jail staffing crisis” this problem is not unique to Kootenai County. We are doing it wrong nationwide because we keep doing the same thing, and we keep electing the same people.
I am going to be the Sheriff that figures this out and provides the solution.