Too many chiefs, not enough Indians at jail

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AN EXPERIENCED FORMER STAFFER EXPLAINS WHY MOST TOP PAID JAIL OFFICERS DO LITTLE WORK TO ACTUALLY RUN THE JAIL

Waco – A work force top heavy with officer-class supervisors and rife with nepotistic relationships between bosses and their staff makes running the McLennan County Jail an exercise in sluggish drudgery.

Here’s why, according to a well-experienced female officer with a multi-agency history of employment in corrections.

WHY CAN BOOKING AN INMATE BECOME SUCH A LENGTHY, COMPLICATED PROCESS?

Ok, so, here we go. I’ll try to explain the process. There are probably 5 jailers working on the floor at booking, with one Corporal. If a wing needs a break or relief, then one of those rovers is the relief rover; so if two need a break that will take two away from booking. Now, only leaving three rovers and a corporal, the corporal is responsible for the booking headcount – number of inmates in booking.

The jail commission says head count is only to be done in 30-minute increments, but the illustrious leader – “jail administrator” – says we must do headcounts every 20 minutes.

BOOKING BY THE BELL

He has even gone so far as to install an old fashioned school bell that literally goes off every twenty minutes…as a reminder for the Corporal, (who) must due the headcount, and, lo and behold …the corporal may be handling numerous situations. His or her only concern should be the headcount.

Then, if an inmate is brought in from an outside agency, that is announced over a radio, so now we only have 3 rover’s, one (of whom is) probably a female and two males to handle all the inmates at booking, during the day, to see the judges, to be booked in, to see the nurses for intake, to be housed.

The corporal is responsible for the headcount, signing off on the shucks of the inmates that have be cleared to leave the jail, either by bonding out, or notices to appear, (and) also handling phone calls from outside and the wings; then (when) an assistance call comes over the radio, now mind you. each wing has their allotted number of jailers per inmate. The Jail Commission says 1 (staff member) to 48 (inmates).

And the CAPTAIN has put out a memo that says we are not to leave our wings short-handed due to jail commission, so no one wants to go on the assistance call because they don’t want to leave their wing short, so booking Rover will respond. Now booking had 2 rovers to work the floor with the corporal.

THE ANATOMY OF A NON-COMPLIANT HEAD COUNT

So now we are noncompliant at booking and there is a security issue; this happens on a daily basis and the supervisors are aware, but do nothing to correct the issue because we have to stay in jail “compliance”

Now a memo has been sent out that at 10:30 at night the inmates must stay in their assigned bunks unless (they experience a)medical emergency or bathroom relief; and if they don’t stay in their assigned bunks at night, they should have a disciplinary (report) issued for not obeying the rules. This will be another hardship on the jail staff

CAN YOU SUGGEST ANYTHING TO UNSNARL THE LOGJAM?

Other than hiring more staff, no, but remember he is running them off faster than they can be hired. In the earlier years, we were allowed to wander from wing to wing, around the jail, assist when needed, and we were able to help our coworkers. That is not the case under the new regime.

COMMUNICATIONS, COMPLICATIONS, NEW RULES, CONFLICTING REGULATIONS

Jailers are unable to have their cell phones within the jail, but if they need to go to their vehicles to use their phone, they are supposed to call Booking for a relief rover. If booking is too busy, the wing gets no relief

Used to when an assistance call came, if I have the radio I could respond without worrying if we were going to get in trouble. Now if we respond, we have to write a report as to why we left our wing.

Then throw into the mix (the requirement for) 2 females and 2 males in the Sally Port (when inmates are) being brought in by other agencies. Remember, the corporal is doing headcount, (there are) only 2 rover’s; the nurse needs to see an inmate; another has shit on himself and needs to be showered; and, oh yeah, they’re bringing one up from the violent cell to be changed out. It gets so crazy, and if we can all work together, its great; but if someone is putting constraints on you, it is very difficult to make it all flow smoothly.

OF CORRUPTION, NEPOTISM, FAVORITISM, AND AN UNFAIR WORK ETHIC

I loved my job and coworkers, but I’m too honest to work there.

Let’s talk about that. Folks say there is corruption, but they stop short of talking specifics. Can you help?

The corruption is (to be found in) the supervisory staff; they are kin to each other and “the good ole boy system” is alive.

COULD YOU BE SPECIFIC?

Well the CAPTAIN is brother in law to the PREA Lieutenant Robert Fulmer, Lt Karen Anderson is distantly related to Sheriff McNamara, Lt Mike Garrett has been best friends with Captain Armstrong for years, and I am not sure that they are not in-laws.

Outstanding. What does PREA stand for?

Prisoner Rape Elimination Act

The Jail Commission says that we have to have this act in place so the inmates are protected from sexual assault, but I don’t think that it required a Lieutenant for the position. We have a Lieutenant over security at the jail; a Lieutenant over PREA; a Lieutenant over Booking; a Lieutenant over Administration; a Night Lieutenant, and a Day Lieutenant – all with take home cars. We also have three detectives. one assisting with PREA, one over Investigation, and one over Gang Investigation – all with take home cars. These positions were all formed when Sheriff Parnell McNamara took office.

HOW DO THE INDIANS FIND OUT WHAT ALL THESE CHIEFS WANT DONE?

All of the decisions get made between Captain Armstrong and mostly Lt Garrett; the rest might get informed if the Captain deems it necessary, but the Captain doesn’t even inform his Sergeants or corporalls of changes taking place within the jail. There is no communication. When I said corruption, I am talking about the behind door decisions that are effecting the work place with no consideration for the outcome

So the advent of the McNamara regime brought a radical reorganization?

Yes, very unnecessary and a cost to the tax payers.

Everyone has a title now.

That’s what folks mean when they say there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

Exactly. But yet, when we need help they are not available.

Captain Armstrong is making his own rules, and these rules are affecting the overall consistency at the jail.

Are his rules contrary to law, or to administrative rules of the Commission Jail Standards?

We have been in compliance with jail standards for as many years as I can remember.

How many years experience did you have in McLennan?

Eight and one-half.

It is so hard to put in words what all the wrongs are within the jail, but I can tell you that it is a very disgruntled atmosphere.

We normally have a Sgt on duty and three to four corporals.

But there is an entire cluster of brass hats with no real responsibility for direct supervision of the non-com and private ranks who are serving in the ranks, who actually deal with the needs and responsibilities of keeping inmates. Is that correct?

Correct.

Lt Garrett, Lt Anderson, Lt Fulmer and Lt Hromadka, but they are all handling their own positions.

On night time, Lt Ward, but none of these work weekends; so if a Sergeant takes off on the weekend, that leaves only a Corporal to oversee the jail.

That is a very comprehensive picture of the situation. Is there anything you would like to add?

The jail is very complex but at the end if the day or night we are all able to go home unharmed. That is what is important; team work is what we used rely upon, but now it’s each to themselves

Final question: Do you feel the new, dog eat dog and to each his own attitude poses a security threat to inmates and staff?

The inmates are not the problem; if you respect them, they respect you. The leadership is the problem, and, yes, safety is a concern. Stressful situations are never good in the work place; stress is a such a major factor that the jailers are dealing with, and it is not coming from the inmates.

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