The employees of six county jails in Iowa are being praised for going “above and beyond” the minimum state standards for those facilities.
Delbert Longley, the chief jail inspector for the Iowa Department of Corrections, selected the six county jails as 2018 “Best of the Best” award winners. “I inspect 106 facilities every year. The vast majority of them do a tremendous job of making sure they are doing the right things and they never get recognized for that,” Longley said. “They’re just kind of like the red-headed stepchild out there…nobody wants to talk about them until, all-of-the sudden, something bad happens.”
The awards were recently handed out at an annual banquet held by the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies’ Association. The six jails are located in Madison, Shelby, Iowa, Sioux, Dubuque and Marshall counties.
Longley commended all six for being responsive to the needs of inmates. “They treat them with respect and (the jail staff) demand respect in return,” Longley explained. “We know the individuals who are (in jail) have been charged with something, otherwise they wouldn’t be there, but that doesn’t mean they should be treated as second-class citizens.”
The jails also scored high marks for cleanliness. “I don’t care how new or how old of a facility you have, I don’t believe there’s any reason why it should be dirty. I will cite that quickly,” Longley said. “I just don’t want poor living conditions – and not only that, it’s poor working conditions for staff.”
Another priority for Longley is making sure the county employees keep “thorough and complete” records of all jail proceedings. “The documentation is what’s going to keep a lot of jails out of lawsuits. If you can show what you’ve done, when, and why you’ve done it – that is very, very important,” Longley said.
According to Longley, administrators and employees of many county jails face substantial challenges including limited budgets, overcrowding, and facilities that are badly in need of replacement or repair. There are several county jails in Iowa that were built in the early 1900s.
The 2018 “Best of the Best” county jail award winners:
Small jails (up to 25 beds) – Madison and Shelby counties
Medium jails (26-100 beds) – Iowa and Sioux counties
Large jails (over 100 beds) – Dubuque and Marshall counties
(photo courtesy KCRG-TV)