Monday, September 10, 2012

Inmate Sex Change? What's next?

I've copied and pasted an article I received from the National Sheriff's Association.  I don't think I need to comment:

BREAKING NEWS: Massachusetts Sex-Change Ruling

BOSTON, MA. - In the first decision of its kind, a federal judge has ordered state officials to provide taxpayer-funded sex-change for a transsexual prisoner, after finding that the treatment is the only adequate care for the inmate's gender identity disorder. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said that the treatment for Michelle Kosilek, convicted of murder, had been prescribed by Department of Correction doctors. He said the only arguments for denying it were based on social bias against that type of surgery.

Many courts have not concurred historically with this ruling in determining deliberate indifference regarding sex-change surgeries and therapy for incarcerated individuals. While this case does not apply outside of the state of Massachusetts, it is certainly important to be aware of and keep on the radar to curtail other courts from following suit. Consult with your legal counsel to determine your own policies and procedures governing this issue. We will continue to keep you posted as news and other cases develop, as this will likely be appealed.

Read more:

Our criminal justice system is imploding...   Be safe!   Captain Bell

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Suicide In The County Jail

I'm knocking very hard on wood right now in writing on this subject.  Since starting as jail commander in January of 2008, there have been a handful of serious, bona fide suicide attempts by inmates.  No deaths, however.  We have been very lucky.  One might say, "not bad", since there have been approximately 22,000 inmates booked into the jail during that period of time.  The truth is that any suicide is bad.  There have been two "in custody" deaths.  The causes of the deaths were out of our control.  One was a health problem; the other a drug overdose when a plastic baggie of cocaine swallowed at the time of the inmate's arrest burst in his system.  Again, we have been lucky.

The majority of suicides are white males averaging 35 years of age.  Unlike the common belief, deaths by suicide are evenly distributed throughout the year.  The holidays show no increase in the number.  Reasons range from a violent/personal charge and histories of substance abuse, medical problems, mental illness, taking psychotropic medication and/or suicidal behavior.  Hanging is the method 93% of the time.  The majority of suicides occur within 48 hours of incarceration and in proximity to court appearances. 

What is significant is that only 8% of the victims are on suicide watch.  That means 92% give no or unrecognizable sign of suicidal behavior.  This means jail staff has to be ever vigilant.  Officers are trained in suicide prevention and recognition.  By watching, interacting with and actually listening to what an inmate has to say, tragedy can sometimes be averted.  This is hard to do in a jail population of 400+, however.  The sad truth is that if a person has this mind frame, nothing much can be done to prevent the act. 

Within the past several months an inmate in the facility attempted to hang himself with a sheet.  CPR was successful and he is still with us today.  At the time he was housed in the administrative segregation cellblock which requires 15 minute face to face checks to be done by staff.  The inmate was seen standing in his cell by a supervisor performing a routine head count.  Six minutes later, yes, six minutes, he was discovered hanging by a staff member doing the 15 minute check.  We (and the inmate) were very lucky that staff was on their toes.  Had another minute passed, the outcome probably would have been much different. 

The point is that it does not take much time.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to have a one staff member per one inmate ratio.  That would be the only way to ensure (if there is such a thing) there would be no suicides.

See you next week.

Captain Bell       


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Religious" People In Jail

"In a uniquely American phenomenon of almost biblical proportions, our Nation's jail and prisons are being over whelmed by inmates who claim to be adherents of religions with demanding and problematic practices, frivolous lawsuits when accommodations are denied or do not meet expectations, and civil courts that drag out their litigation and make canonical decrees, while an economically depressed public is increasingly incensed over having to pay for the resultant costs, and frustrated corrections administrators are baffled by the folly of it all."

I read this in the July/August 2012 issue of AmericanJails magazine.  The author is Chaplain Gary Friedman who serves on the American Correctional Chaplains Association, Advisory Board Chairman of Jewish Prisoner Services International and an instructor for the American Jail Association's "Religious Issues in Jails" seminars.

Chaplain Friedman hits it right on the head.

Increasingly, inmates, and not one-timers (I'm talking career criminals), are demanding "religious rights" while in jail either awaiting trial or serving time for murder, robbery, rape, burglary, drug dealing - you name it.  And guess what.  The federal courts say we have to do it.  We (the taxpayers) have to foot the bill for this.  There are about 20,000 inmates nationwide costing us about $40 million per year to accomodate their religious demands.  In the court case Jackson v. Mann (Docket No. 97-2968-US 2nd Circuit) the ruled that an inmate's "sincerely held belief" that he is a Jew constitutionally entitles him to a kosher diet.  Inmate Jackson told correctional officials orginally that his faith was "none," then "Muslim," then "None" again before claiming to be Jewish.  Guess what.  He won the lawsuit against the correctional facility.  And, it has gone downhill from there.  "As is the case with other such Torah-derived commandments, they are incumbent only upon those who are Jewish.  In that regard, the traditional standard of Judaism is that a person must either be born Jewish or properly converted to be recognized as Jewish.  No mainstream branch (i.e., denomination) of Judaism accept that one can become Jewish by self-conversion.  Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with American civil law which trumps religious law in public (but not private) settings." 

Ironically, many of my staff, who are hard-working people who are valuable to society, cannot even attend church services because they have to work during the time of their respective church's service.

This is just one of many instances where inmates' "civil rights" are more important than those of the hard-working, productive citizens against whom their crimes are committed.

I wish we could vote for our federal judges.  Scratch that.  It probably wouldn't be any better.  I don't think we want a politician being a federal judge.  I see what happens on the local level with elected judges.  That'll never happen anyway.  I guess were stuck with a system that appoints politically-connected federal judges to life time positions, who have absolutely no criminal or civil culpability for their all too often nonsensical decisions... 

Thank you to Chaplain Friedman for all of the facts stated in today's blog.  I tried as much as possible to give him due credit by putting his words in quotes.  I take no credit for the facts.  I am only passing his information on to you.

Thanks.  I hope to blog consistently now. 

Captain Bell  


Friday, March 25, 2011

Gotta vent (been reading court decisions)...

I caught up on my reading today. New laws, procedures, court decisions, etc. I was pretty far behind. Anyway, it was a huge mistake. I ALWAYS get frustrated and angry when I read court decisions. It is truly amazing that our judges in their immense wisdom think common sense does not apply to the constitution. I often wonder about the constitutional rights of crime victims. Or, do they have any? These guys (and gals) wear their black robes, sit behind the fancy bench and seemingly think of ways to make law enforcement's job harder. Like it's a game to them, or something. I've watched for 28 years as judges and lawyers have purveyed their swill in the search for "truth" and "justice". A pig would refuse to eat a lot of the swill I have seen purveyed...

I still believe that one has to be pretty intelligent to graduate from law school, and to pass the Bar Exam, but, obviously does not have to be very smart. "Intelligent" does not equal "smart". My belief is that one of the prerequisites of being a judge should be being a victim of a crime - the more violent of a crime, the better. Maybe this would give a different perspective to the out-of-touch with the real world, arrogant eggheads that make the rules to protect the public. No, wait. My mistake. To protect the creeps that terrorize society.

We in law enforcement are so smothered with idiotic rules, our ability to do the right thing is effectively squashed. It is more necessary to protect the predators of society from the big, bad, meanie cops.

The idea is for our criminal justice system to have checks and balances. A great idea. However, our system is not checked and balanced. It is turned against itself. No wonder it fails miserably. When it comes to constitutional issues, our forefathers have to spinning into orbit.

Here's just one example of a case I read today:

A guy was walking along the roadway, obviously in la-la land. He was talking out of his head, and made the statement he was in heaven. The police did the right thing by getting him to a mental facility, where he signed a consent form for treatment. He was there for about 6 months. When he was released, presumably cured, or at least on some type of program to help him with his mental issues, he promptly sued because his constitutional rights were violated by the police for forcing him to get treatment. Nice. The guy gets help on the taxpayers' dime and then sues. (A side note - I realize I am wailing on this guy, but, there is an attorney in the background propagating this BS). Well, guess what. The government lost the case. Presumably, the taxpayers had to pay out more (You can bet more to the attorney than to the mentally ill guy). The reason? Due to him being mentally ill, the guy could not give consent for treatment.

I'm not kidding.

Basically, the courts have found that mentally ill people are not capable of making their own decisions, but have also ruled that we in law enforcement have the obligation to allow them to make their own decisions. And, if we fail to protect them when they make a decision driven by their mental illness, which the courts have said they're unable to do because they are mentally ill, but we still have to let them make their own decisions because the courts say we have to, we are liable for violating their constitutional right to be protected because they are not capable of making decisions for themselves due to their mental illness, but if we force them into some type of protection against their will, we are liable for violating their constituational right to refuse treatment for their mental illness, even though the courts have said they're not capable of making decisions on their own because of their mental illness.

There is a procedure here in Indiana called an "emergency detention". What happens is a person petitions a doctor to determine that a person is mentally ill and in imminent danger of hurting themselves. The doctor completes a form, which is forwarded to a judge. The judge makes a decision, signs the order, and the police take the mentally ill person to a facility for a mandatory period of 72 hours. For the most part, this system works well, and is with in reason, timely in the way it works. The catch. If the person is incarcerated, and that is the person this article is about, we are obligated to provide round-the-clock security for that person at the mental facility. So, since there are normally not enough officers working to staff the jail, overtime pay is needed to have someone off-duty stand guard. Seventy-two hours of overtime. And, the taxpayers have to pay for the mental health treatment as well. On top of these issues, we have to transport what is often a violent person, from the jail to the mental facility.

Law enforcement officers put themselves in danger, and make decisions every day that have a profound affect on peoples' lives. Many times, life-altering decisions. Why can't we be trusted to squirt a little liquid pschotropic medicine that is prescribed and supervised by a doctor, into the drink of a mentally ill person who has refused medicine, if that medicine will make them act and feel better? Maybe, keep them from hurting themselves or someone else. I'm not talking about drugging them into a catatonic state. I'm referring to medicating based on good, sound medical practice. Many, many, many people take psychotropic medications on a daily basis and live normal lives. Instead, an officer would be in jeopardy of being arrested and held in the same jail where he works if he tried to help the person by doing this type of thing. We taxpayers have to spend millions of dollars nationwide each year while law enforcement is forced to jump through hoops, because the judges know better how to do things.

See what I mean when I say that "intelligent" does not equal "smart". Some guy in a black robe, who is insulated against the real world, and does not have to literally wrestle on the ground with these mentally ill people on a daily basis, thinks he knows better how things should be handled. I wonder if it was a judge's mother, father, son, daughter, who was running full speed head-first into the wall because they are mentally ill and don't know better (I am speaking literally. This happens more than you might think), if the rules wouldn't change...

Something has to change or our system is going to implode. And, our society won't be far behind. Some say this can't happen. Remember the great Roman Empire? Some said it would never fail. Where is it now?

Stay safe!

Captain Bell

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Recidivism: Inmate Programs and Bigger Jails

The adult and teen leadership classes visited the jail in the past couple of days. The purpose of the classes is to educate people about various aspects LaPorte County and Indiana Government.

When the classes visit, we hold an "inmate panel" which consists of three (3) inmates who volunteer to answer questions in front of the class. The inmates are shackled and handcuffed, and are escorted into the classroom wearing their orange jumpsuits. The class members ask questions, great questions, of the inmates for about half an hour. Boy, do the lies fly...

Anyway, discussion is held after the panel is done and the inmates are escorted from the room. One subject that ALWAYS comes up is, what should we do as a society - Build more jails or try to break the cycle by offering programs?

Truthfully, neither is working very well.

If we build more jails and prisons, more inmates will be held in the bigger facilities, which prompts us to have to build even bigger jails and prisons in order to house more inmates, which requires bigger and bigger facilities to be built to hold more inmates... You get the point. It's the "If you build it, they will come" syndrome. Our neighbor, Elkhart County, built a new 936 bed jail in 2007 that cost about $100 million, yes, that's $100,000,000! Yikes!! Granted that most counties, in Indiana at least, aren't as big as Elkhart County, but think of the cost nationwide to build these places.

I'm not even mentioning operating and maintenance costs.

Let's take the LaPorte County Jail (I'm kinda partial). We renovated in 2004, expanding to 368 beds from 132 beds. Cost? About $22 million. At that time, seven years ago, we were horrifically overcrowded; running near 300 inmates at times. Here we are seven years later, and, yes, we're overcrowded. The average jail population for 2010 was 379. There were over 400 inmates for a good portion of the year. The county politicos are trying to build a new community corrections center, which will hopefully help relieve some of the jail overcrowding. The cost of the new center will be in the ballpark of 5-8 million dollars. Not as much, but still a lot of money.

Alternative - programs, programs, programs. The cost - millions of dollars nationwide. Here's the catch. Most inmates attend the programs because, a) they are sentenced to do so; b) they think they'll get their time cut; or c) so they can get out of the cell block for a while to attend class. Hey! I didn't list "because they want to". Millions of dollars go down the toilet every year because inmates are forced to attend programs and have no interest in "changing". Their motives aren't pure. The money to fund programs kind of ebbs and flows. Programs exist, or not, depending on how much money is available. It is comical to me that an inmate will complain about not being able to attend the same program he attended the last time he was in jail because the program doesn't exist any more. Wait a minute. Wasn't the program designed to keep you from coming back to jail?!? I'm confused...

Understand that there are successes. Former inmates have overcome their addictions, educated themselves and become productive members of society, because...THEY WANTED TO. Unfortunately, these are, at best, a very small percentage of program participants.

I personally do not have much faith in programs. That said, I am trying to get any program I can into the jail. It is my responsibility to meet what is considered an industry standard.

So what should we do? Even with programs in existence, recidivism rates are over 50%. The door of the jail keeps revolving despite the best efforts of the "do-gooders" to force people to do what they really don't want to. Millions of dollars down the drain. Build more and bigger jails for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a whack? Finally put "these people" away where they belong?

There is no clear answer.

Food for thought: It is believed that at least 40% of the population of our nation's jails and prisons have some form of mental illness. Would we be better served to build more psychiatric facilities, where those diagnosed with a MI could receive needed treatment while serving their sentences?

What do we do? I dunno...

Be careful out there.

Captain Bell

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Well, it's less than 28 hours until the new year as I am writing this. I experienced things in 2010 that, although I knew would come, and would be difficult, didn't realize just how difficult. Taking hits in the media from those who try to discredit you, is a hard pill to take. The feeling is beyond expression when those hits are personal in nature and on a television news show. Howbeit untrue, still personal. Watching your family suffer from it makes one's stomach turn. You may ask "Why would someone try to annihilate another person for no apparent reason?" Because of the personal agendas held by the players. Each of their agendas is different from the other. I just happened to be the guy standing in the way when the goals on their agendas weren't met.

There's no two ways about it. Politics sucks. Plain and simple. I witnessed the Sheriff get hammered from all angles for the year prior to the election. Cheap shots taken by those whose agenda was to get their favorite candidate elected Sheriff. I took several such shots the 3-4 prior to the general election. People in politics do whatever it takes to advance their agenda. Watching these people at work could lead one to believe they are devoid of a soul. Of any hint of decency. The political arena is pure evil. When people get money and power, it is Satan's playground.

There are those who publicly berate you. The problem (for them) is they are usually so stupid they don't know when to shut up. Accusations made are soon debunked. In a short time the public recognizes them for the idiots they are. After a while, the negative things they say about you become positive in the public eye. The people of the public are not the morons some elected officials believe they are. They can see through the BS.

Worth watching are the ones that are back-stabbers; the ones that smile to your face, then stick the knife in when your back is turned. These people are not hard to spot. They think they're clever and have a special gift of not being suspected, but they stick out like a sore thumb. Their arrogance and egos won't allow them to see how obvious they are. Their actions can be quite entertaining at times.

Then, there is the true evil. The politicians that are established; that have been in office for a while. They have been elected several times and, for some reason, have the public trust. These are the slithering snakes in the pit. Politicians on this level have the ability to make others trust them, violate that trust, and then receive thanks from those whom they have screwed over. Shrewd, intelligent people. They will never get directly involved in lynching of other political officials, but will be a conduit to that end. They're very powerful because of their connections. And, they're make of Teflon. Nothing sticks to them. They think they are unstoppable. And, for all practical purposes, at least while in office, are.

The election is over, but these people won't stop. Let me relate a story: I was approached by one of our elected officials a couple of weeks ago. He handed me his business card with the name of a company that is being considered to build a new community corrections center written on the back. He told me that officials from the company would like to tour our county jail and would be there at a certain time on a certain day. Red flag. Why would someone who designs and builds correctional facilities want to tour a jail they have nothing to do with? Also, who is he to tell me, first, I will provide a tour, and secondly, when I will do it? I'm sure I would have been afforded the same discretion with his calendar (not!). I told him I would take care of it, but stewed about it the rest of the weekend. When the day and time came for the tour, I was busy confronting two fairly serious issues in the jail. I literally had no time to perform the tour. My assistant was sent to advise the people to reschedule. When it became apparent they were not being granted access to the jail, the people, according to my assistant, became quite indignant and began blasting him with questions. Red flag. Someone who builds jails should know schedules change and priorities have to be placed at times. A few of the questions involved the structure of the jail. That's fine, although we were waiting on my assistant to return so our meeting could continue. Then, the questions became in regards to jail operations, staff and inmate attitudes, etc. Red flag. Why would they care about such things? Here's the kicker. An elected official who has made no bones about his disdain of the Sheriff was with the group. Huge red flag! He was at the same function when I was told about the tour. Why didn't this official contact me? Why send someone else? Snakes are all over the place.

I have too much good work to do. Just leave me alone to do my job. Take your warped agendas elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. 2010 has been a great year. I reassigned some staff, changed a few duties and instituted some new policies and procedures designed to make operations run more safely and efficiently. Successful attempts have been made to ease the overcrowding issue. The newly instituted staff training program was a huge success! The program is being expanded in 2011. We passed the state jail inspection with a perfect score. There were only two (2) violations cited in the inspection performed by the state fire marshal. Those had to be addressed with the maintenance department who has authority over those matters. Everything under my control was fine! Overall, things are pretty positive in the jail.

I've made new friends. My life and marriage are fantastic! I'm gainfully employed in a career that I have loved for some 27 years. I am physically able to type this blog.

All are reasons to be happy.

I am truly thankful for what I have. There will be negative aspects in every life. The critical thing is what we make of each situation.

I hope you continue to follow me in 2011. My hope is to be more consistent with this blog. Let me know what you want to hear about.

Happy Holidays!

Captain Bell

Friday, December 10, 2010

At The Conference

Hi, all! I'm waiting for my next class, so I thought I would write from the Indiana Sheriff's Association New Sheriff Conference in Indianapolis. Today is the last day. It's been very informative.

I don't know about other people in law enforcement, but I always leave these things a little bit paranoid. We are taught a lot about civil liability, how to avoid it and the ramifications thereof. Well, guess what?! There is no way possible to AVOID civil liability. The best we can do is damage control. Inmates, our biggest source of liability, sue for anything. The major issue is medical care. Which, by the way, cost wise is out of control. LaPorte County will spend in the ballpark of $700,000.00 this year on inmate medical care. That is $700,000.00 of taxpayer money, when we have good, hardworking people that are laid off, have lost insurance for their healthcare issues and cannot get an extension on their unemployment benefits. Anyway, lawsuits consist of anything from food issues, housing issues, to the fact that the telephone in the cellblock doesn't work today (It doesn't matter that we are in the process of getting it fixed). On and on and on. Fortunately, the vast majority of lawsuits are found to be frivolous. However, the taxpayers have to pay an attorney to defend each one of these cases. So, in essence, eventhough the inmate gets no monetary award, we taxpayers still lose.

Then there are the lawsuits that probably could be won, but a settlement is made in order to save the taxpayers money. Dollar for dollar it doesn't make sense to spend $50,000.00 on attorneys' fees when a $15,000.00 settlement will make the thing go away. These can be cases where someone made a mistake (All humans do). Believe it or not, the federal courts realize we are going to make mistakes. Usually, if no intention of doing wrong is shown, we can win those cases. This type of lawsuit could stem from a violation of written departmental policy and procedures. Keep in mind that we (The officers, Sheriff's Office and government in general) have to be perfect in everything. The inmates have no obligation to be right in anything.
And, most of the time, they aren't right.

Very frustrating.

Unfortunately, there are a few, very few, lawsuits that are legitimate (Depending on one's definition of legitimate). The taxpayers can pay big in these cases. Usually for this to happen, something termed "deliberate indifference" occurs on the part of an officer(s) and/or entity. Basically, "deliberate indifference" is defined as knowing something was wrong and not doing anything about it. An inmate usually has been hurt seriously in some manner, or may be dead, for these lawsuits to be won. It hurts, but it happens.

You can see the theme. The lawyers ALWAYS get a load of money, the inmate sometimes gets money, the taxpayers ALWAYS LOSE money. It ain't about justice, people. It's about who can spin the biggest load of BS. Even the lawyers will tell you that. It's a way of life in the INJUSTICE system.

The system is lawyer driven. The prosecutor, defense and judges (All the way to, and including, the Supreme Court) are lawyers. Many of your lawmakers are lawyers. It is assured that the lawyers will always win.

Don't lose heart. The officers in the jail, and on the street, work very hard to protect the public that they serve. I am very proud of the officers of my Sheriff's Office.

Once it gets into the hands of the lawyers, however, all bets are off.

Stay safe!

Captain Bell