Friday, April 23, 2010

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a nasty, dirty reality in today's society.

You may have read a Tweet by Sheriff Mollenhauer that LaPorte County had 3 homicides in 2009 - all the result of domestic violence. There were two separate incidents. In one, the estranged husband shot and killed his wife and her alleged boyfriend. He is now in the jail facing murder charges. The other resulted in a woman being shot to death, while sitting in her car with the couple's kids sitting in the backseat. The man committed suicide a short time later.

This makes me sick. Yes, LaPorte County has a problem...just like the rest of the nation. Eleven percent of the current inmate population in the LaPorte County Jail is being held for some type of violent crime that could be related to domestic violence. These charges include domestic violence (10), battery, intimidation, sexual battery, trespass, invasion of privacy (violation of a protective order) and murder (2 domestic related - one from 2008 that is still pending). Admittedly, I would have to do several hours of research to have truly accurate stats, but this gives you some idea of the violent society in which we live. Keep in mind that these are the ones that have been arrested. We have warrants for others, and what is huge, it is speculated that there are many, many, many domestic violence crimes that go unreported.

Here are some stats:
  • Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her family.
  • Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women - more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
  • Everyday in the U.S., more than three women are murdered by their husbands.
  • Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the U.S. alone - the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • Read this: Based on report from 10 countries, between 55% and 95% of women who had been physically abused by their partners never reported the incident to anyone.

As I said. Domestic violence is a "HUGE" problem.

The reasons that domestic violence goes unreported are many. Many victims stay because:

  • The victim fears losing her children, or that they will be abused by the abuser if she leaves.
  • The victim may not have the financial resources, access to alternative support or skills to secure a job.
  • Religious beliefs.
  • Friends and family may not support the victim's leaving.
  • The victim may have grown up with violence and considers it "normal".
  • The victim may not want the relationship to end.
  • The victim may feel shame about being abused and reluctant to let anyone know.
  • The victim may not know who to turn to for help.
  • There may be language barriers that prevent seeking help or independence, or the victim may fear being deported.

Abuser psychological control of the victim and the victim's fear play a big part in the victim staying. You have to keep in mind that domestic violence causes severe emotional and psychological trauma as well. The victim often feels isolated and helpless. Leaving the situation is harder than one may think.

The warning signs of an abusive relationship can be:

  • Verbal Abuse - The abuser puts down the victim by calling her names, constantly criticizing her, provoking public or private humiliation, or making her feel "crazy".
  • Bruises and injuries - The victim often has bruises and injuries that can't be explained, or offers weak excuses for them.
  • Violent Temper - The abuser has threatened to hurt the victim, her children, family members, friends or pets. The abuser blames the victim and other people for everything, and gets angry in a way that scares her or other people.
  • Controlling Behavior - The abuser checks up on the victim constantly by asking about her whereabouts, calling her at work or on her cell phone, checking her car mileage and listening to her phone calls. The abuser manages all the finances and monitors her spending.
  • Extreme Jealousy - The abuser acts jealous or possessive, often accusing the victim of flirting or having affairs.
  • Isolation - The abuser tells her not to see certain friends or family members, keeps her away from school or work and makes her stay home when she wants to go out.
  • Emotional Changes - The victim seems to be on edge or fearful, or becomes quiet when the partner is around.
  • Behavior of the Children - The children of an abuse victim frequently get into trouble at school or are quiet and withdrawn and don't get along with other children.

If you know someone that fits this description contact someone. You may save a life. At the very least you may make someones life much more pleasant.

If you are a victim, please get help.

Here is some local contact information:

  • Victim's Advocates: LaPorte - 325-9160, Michigan City - 874-5611 ext. 7808, LaPorte County - 326-6808 ext. 342 or 873-7014 ext. 342
  • Stepping Stone Shelter for Women: 879-4615 or 1-800-248-1151
  • Women's Care Center: 874-4646 or 324-4646
  • Dept. of Child Services: 326-5870 or 879-5351
  • Dunebrook Parent Information Center: 874-0007 or 1-800-897-0007

Contact your local police department 24 hours per day. Just dial 9-1-1. Please do not be afraid to call.

Thank you to the Avon Foundation for these statistics and information, much of it word-for-word, as taken from their publication "You ARE NOT Alone". Go to for more information.

Captain Bell

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mental Illness in Jail

It's Friday blog time! It's been a busy, productive week.

I want to talk today about the mentally ill who are arrested and brought to jail. First, I have very little formal training in the field of mental health. All I have to offer is personal experience in dealing with these unfortunate individuals. I am no expert by any definition of the word.

Several years ago I was told that approximately 40% of those held in penal facilities suffer from some form of mental illness. I believe that figure is actually much higher. It seems that as time goes along we receive more and more individuals who range from "just not quite right" (my wording) to those who need extensive in-house, long-term therapy. These individuals do commit crimes. Some commit very serious crimes. But, others are held here for long period of time on minor charges with a very small bond amount. The issue is two-fold: 1) Public safety; 2) The safety of the arrested mentally ill individual.

Unfortunately, in Indiana, we in the "justice" system have few options that allow us to help the mentally ill. Indiana statute does allow a police officer to "in good faith" take a mentally ill individual into custody for a 24 hour period of time without that individual committing a crime. The individual has to be a danger to himself or others because of his mental condition. It is a difficult decision for a police officer, who recieves limited training in the mental health field, to make these decisions. The procedure is to take the individual to the nearest hospital emergency room to be assessed by a doctor. The doctor can then either start the procedure for an emergency detention 72-hour detention or release the individual. Forms are completed by the doctor that are forwarded to a judge for approval. Once the judge issues the emergency detention order, the individual is taken to a mental health facility for treatment. Many times the individuals are assessed and prescribed medications that make them "normal" and able to care for themselves. They no longer are a danger to themselves or society at that point. The unfortunate thing is that many, due to their condition, have no friends, and family has chosen to have no contact with them. With no support system, it is quite common that the individuals stop taking prescribed medications, which starts the cycle all over again.

The other eventuality is that the individual is simply released from the emergency room, back to the street, if the doctor deems him/her to not be a danger.

You might ask why more individuals are not taken to the hospital for evaluation in lieu of being arrested. Many are either very intoxicated and/or violently fighting with the police when brought to jail. It is not until they sober up and/or settle down that it is realized they have a deeper problem. By then they're already charged with a crime and setting in jail. In an earlier blog, I talked about the fact that the taxpayers fund all inmate medical costs. The same would apply if we commit a person that is already in jail. Tax dollars would pay for the treatment, only to possibly have the cycle start all over again after the person is released from jail.

We have limited success through the court system in having these individuals committed to a state hospital for treatment. There are two unfortunate circumstances: the lack of space at the state hospitals and the fact that a person will sit in jail 30 - 60 days after being ordered to the hospital by a judge. Keep in mind that the ones that are committed, are the "worst of the worst". There is a good number individuals who need the long-term help that never receive it because their condition just isn't bad enough.

Without a court order, we cannot force feed psychotropic medications (or any medication for that matter) to someone who doesn't want their medication. It is an unusual situation. Those who cannot think for themselves or provide their own care, have the right to refuse the medication that would make them be able to think for and care for themselves. This is another product of the federal courts. Judges are very hesitant to issue orders for jail personnel to force feed medications. I've dealt with these issues several times.

Long story short, there is a lack of facilities to treat mentally ill individuals. We should be building more mental health facilities instead of jails and prisons. I am not saying that people should be able to use mental illness as an excuse to commit a crime. These individuals just need to be handled a little differently by the system.

Be safe!

Captain Bell

Friday, April 9, 2010

Prohibited Contrband/Paraphernalia In The Jail

Contraband. An on-going problem.

Contraband takes many forms in the jail. The general rule is that contraband is anything that is illegal, dangerous, potentially dangerous or against facility rules. The rules are in place to, of course, prevent problems. A lot of the rules have come from incidents that have occured. Basically, us trying to learn from our experiences.

Contraband takes on many forms. Illegal drugs, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, pieces of metal (predominately staples), etc. The biggie now is cellphones. Although, we have had no problems in this regard. Illegal drugs are self-explanatory. Cigarettes are against the county policy of a smoke-free premisis. Cigarette lighters can be used to start fires, and, make an explosive. The pieces of metal make a good weapon to use against other inmates and officers (And, on occasion, on themselves). Inmates can take the staples from a magazine and stick them in an electrical outlet to start a fire, use them as a weapon or, as a crude but effective tool to make tatoos.

Sometimes, something that originally is not contraband becomes contraband. We serve juice for breakfast. The juice can be used to make what is called "hooch", an alcoholic drink. I don't understand the fermentation process, but I know it works. Too many piles of paperwork, books, magazines, etc. are a potential fire hazard. Inmates are limited to two books in possession at one time. They can only have 15 letters in their possession. Inmates tear up sheets and towels to make ropes. I don't think I have to mention what a rope might be used for by a mentally ill inmate... They put bars of soap in a sock to make a very effective weapon. Playing cards used to play hearts, euchre, etc. are OK. When used for gambling, cards become contraband. Why is gambling prohibited? Because inmates get into fights over unpaid debts. Many will bet a meal while gambling. We have the obligation to make sure the inmates receive proper nutriton; even despite themselves.

I know this begs the question: How does the contraband get into the jail? I have to be honest. Most of the time, it is due to an officer missing a piece of contraband when performing a search of the inmate. A simple mistake. But, a mistake that can be dangerous. Also, I hate to admit, there have been incidents of officers trafficking with the inmates. Obviously, those officers no longer work here and have been prosecuted for their actions. We have not had an incident of officer trafficking in several years.

I'll relate to you a story about how inmates brought marijuana, tobacco and lighters into the jail. We have trustee inmates that perform various duties throughout the jail. One of these duties is to carry out the trash. About a year and a half ago, a trustee inmate made arrangements with his girlfriend via telephone to hide the items under the left front edge of the dumpster located outside of the jail building in which we put the jail trash. The officer escorted 3 trustees to the dumpster. While one was distracting the officer by talking to him, another feigned dropping his garbage bags, picked up the contraband and placed it in his pants. The trustee then brought the items into the jail and distributed it to the cellblocks. One inmate distracted the officer while the other gave the contraband to inmates while passing out food trays. This happened a couple of times before we were tipped off by another trustee of the activity. We did a sting one morning and caught the inmate with the contraband in the crotch of his pants. The investigation revealed that there were five inmates involved in the operation. All were disciplined by taking away their "good time" (a future blog topic). There's a reason we did not file "outside charges" (Additional charges through court. Another future blog topic). More is actually accomplished by taking good time away. Naturally, the participants were removed from trustee status. Why would an inmate give the contraband to inmates in other cellblocks? The inmate receiving the contraband pays for it by having someone put money in the contraband distributor's commissary account. In other cases, inmates are "strong-armed" (Bullied) into providing the contraband.

A short editorial on my part: If we had the DVR recording system in place, which the county council will not fund, we would have the footage of the incidents on DVD. That would make the incidents much easier and faster to investigate, and make a better case. 'nuff about that.

There are many, many other incidents and types of contraband that I have not mentioned. This gives you some idea, however, of what we deal with on a daily basis.

I hope all is well.

Be safe!

Captain Bell

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer Guest Blog

Good morning! I'm Mike Mollenhauer, the Sheriff of LaPorte County, Indiana. The first 3+ years as sheriff have been very eventful and satisfying. I look forward to work everyday. It is fulfilling to know that I can make a difference in people's lives and society in general.

A little about my career. I have about 40 years experience in the law enforcement field. My law enforcement career started with the sheriff's department. Over the years, I worked as a patrol officer, a patrol shift commander, detective and arson investigator. I retired from the department with the rank of captain. After leaving the department I became the Chief of the Bremen, Indiana Police Department. I left Bremen after about 5 years and worked as a security officer at the federal courthouses in South Bend and Hammond. I left courthouse security when elected sheriff.

Be careful this week. The kids are on spring break. Watch for bicycles, kids and balls going into the roadway, etc. Also, the farmers are getting into full swing. There will be a lot of slow-moving farm machinery traveling on the roadways. Exercise a little extra caution when driving.

I look forward to hearing from you! Give me your comments and questions. If I don't have an answer, I'll get one for you.

Sheriff Mollenhauer