BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary County Jail has continued to improve over the years, resulting in it being recommended for certification for the third year in a row. Recent new improvements to modernize the operations at the jail have led to better efficiency as well as better safety for the inmates.
The jail first became certified during Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer’s first year in office and has since met the Idaho jail standards to remain certified every year since. Kramer credits the Detention Deputies and staff in helping make that possible.
“Because of no mandatory standards out of compliance with Idaho Jail Standards, I am pleased to recommend the Boundary County Jail for a 2019 certificate of compliance,” wrote Jail Standards Coordinator/Inspector Cindy Malm.
“This last year we have been making some improvements on the jail, bringing it into the 21st Century,” said Kramer. “Most of the changes are to be a benefit, both to the work environment, and for the operation of the jail.”
One of the new devices that brings more technology and convenience to the jail, and others, is the new inkless fingerprint system that replaces the old rolled fingerprints. It was obtained through a grant and allows fingerprints to be electronically submitted. This will be used for people in custody, those that have to register as sex offenders, as well as other fingerprinting needs, such as school volunteers, employees, and enhanced concealed weapon permits.
The former ink prints presented challenges. If they were considered unreadable, for a variety of possible reasons, they would be returned and the person providing the print would have to return the Sheriff’s Office to try again — a process that could repeat itself more than once.
“What is nice about the system is that it will give you three notifications: red — no good, yellow — acceptable, and green — perfect,” explained Bryant Brown, Boundary County Sheriff’s deputy jailer.
In a previous experience, with the ink system, they had an elderly lady come in with almost blank fingerprints due to age. When they had trouble finding a print, the lady looked up at them and said, “I just want to make sure that if I have to smoke somebody, I can smoke them.”
So, while the old system had its humor value, the new system is proving to be far more effective and valuable for everyone involved.
“And people don’t have ink on their hands, trying to get it off,” said Kramer with laugh.
Another new system that has been implemented last month is called Guardian RFID which is a handheld device used by the detention deputies in conjunction with fixed tags at key locations around the cells.
The county’s insurance carrier, ICRMP (Idaho Counties Risk Management Program), paid for 50 percent of this new technology due to the importance that they believe it will add to jail facilities.
A device looking similar to a cell phone, is given to the detention deputies. This gives them access to a variety of different programs that range from regular cell checks, to tracking medications prescribed to inmates.
The medications are all logged into the system. When presented with the medication, the inmate then confirms that they belong to him or her, which medication they want at the time, then the detention deputy clicks green for yes, or red for no.
“We make them sign the pad confirming that they received the meds, or that they declined them,” said Brown, and the process is complete in far less time.
“It is for accountability,” said Kramer. “Not that we doubt what the detention deputies do, but it builds a stronger, defensible situation. You can see that the proper checks are done, accountability for medications that are given, so if there is any question or suits down the road, this is easier to defend, instead of just having a detention deputy who logged in and said I checked on this cell or this inmate. They have to scan it.”
There are trackers in different points around the jail that can be scanned with the handheld device, proving that checkpoint has been covered. Not only on the outside of the cells, but also inside the cells, requiring the detention deputy to actually enter the cell to log the check in point.
“I believe there are 13 points in the jail that we have to hit, and if we don’t hit them all, they have individual timers, so an alarm will go off,” explained Brown.
“This communicates to our overall record management system,” said Kramer. “All this data is going into that system — so it is all compatible.”
“It saves on typing,” added Brown with a chuckle. “I’ll say that.”
The system, which was set up and customized for the Boundary County Jail over several days, also makes the jail a safer place for inmates. As the rounds are being made, they can log what the inmate is doing, whether they are reading, sleeping, or other activity.
“It saves us a lot of time and it helps us track people and supplies,” said Boundary County Sheriff’s Detention Deputy James Ranlett, who has been there for 14 years. “So far, so good — I like it.”
Boundary County Undersheriff Rich Stephens explained that the system was fully customizable for different situations with the inmates.
“If they are on a closed watch due to detoxing, or if they are suicidal, or other concerns requiring abbreviated watches, this can be set for that,” he explained. “If you are busy, 30 minutes or 15 minutes goes by real quick, and this lets you know to do it. So if down the road — if something does happen, and we are in court and have to testify to it — we have electronic proof that they did their job, and they did it like they were supposed to.”
“We don’t have an abundance of staffing in the jail, so they can get busy very fast and it can get time consuming, so this is a good reminder so that time does not slip away and we don’t miss those checks,” added Kramer. “Or we can get a deputy to come in and cover when we are really busy.”
With the new improvements, the jail continues to move forward and improve. They still have hurdles to overcome due to the age of the building. The plumbing is still an issue, as the old pipes are built into the building itself, and they still face issues of room for the inmates.
“I think the biggest challenge is our population and the mixture of our population, because this jail was built in the 1980s,” said Kramer. “We didn’t have a lot of female prisoners back in those days so this jail was built with a small section for females. Now unfortunately, with drugs, we are seeing a lot higher female population.”
Through measuring and creative thinking, Kramer was able to find a way to add one extra bed and still be in compliance with the strict rules, bring it from 23 to 24 total beds in the jail.
There are still plans for the future, and ways to improve, but the third year in a row being recommended for certification validates the steps that the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, along with the staff and volunteers, is still striving to improve — and hitting the mark.