Last night I went to jail. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I took a tour of Central Jail as a participant in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Citizens’ Academy. If you don’t know, the Sheriff’s Office in Downtown Charlotte is rated one of the best correctional facilities in the country. It is the only nationally accredited jail in North Carolina. I have been amazed to learn of the number of services and programs that it provides. The personnel I have met are all professional, hardworking, cordial, and dedicated to their jobs. They are the unsung heroes of our city and we owe them our gratitude.
Now, to the jail. To my surprise, it’s spotless and quiet! Although it houses almost 2,000, you would not know it to be inside. There are no bars, no clanking sound of doors and keys. It is designed in a pod-like design with each cell like a small room and grouped around a common area. We toured several areas including: Wet cell pods, Dry cell pods, Infirmary, and Master Control where each level and section is monitored by computer. Of course, everywhere there are surveillance cameras and microphones. The staff is trained and equipped to deal with every situation that comes their way. We learned that a baby was recently born there! In my next post, I will tell you about a lock-down that occurred while we were touring that involved the extraction of a disruptive inmate by a highly trained (and I noticed, very physically-fit) group of guys that are part of DART (Direct Action Response Team).
Who are the people behind the locked doors? Some are habitually bad, maybe a continual threat to society, but I feel most are people that made bad choices. A few are innocent, but it is not the job of the Sheriff’s Office to decide innocence or guilt. It is up to the courts. While the inmate is a house-guest of this correctional facility, he or she is treated with respect. Their basic needs are met. I am glad to learn that Sheriff Bailey’s philosophy is “building character, not jails.” There are many programs that give inmates an opportunity to turn their lives around. Jail should not be a revolving door, but a temporary place for the inmate to redirect his life from that point forward.
Photo courtesy of Nixxphotography