Douglas jail named best in the nation |

Douglas jail named best in the nation

They say the jailhouse is full of innocent people, but in the case of Douglas County Jail, many of those being held in custody are presumed innocent.

That's why caring for people being held while awaiting court proceedings is so important.

This month, the National Commission on Correction Health Care named the Minden jail the R. Scott Chavez Facility of the Year.

The commission provides accreditation to nearly 500 jails, prisons and juvenile confinement facilities across the nation.

“I’m quite proud of our deputies and sergeants who work in the jail. When you tour the jail, I think you’ll say ‘That’s quite a clean, orderly facility, it’s more like a hospital than what you think about a jail.’”­

— Capt. Jim HalseyJail Division Commander

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"I'm quite proud of our deputies and sergeants who work in the jail," Jail Division Commander Capt. Jim Halsey told Douglas County commissioners at their September meeting. "When you tour the jail, I think you'll say 'That's quite a clean, orderly facility, it's more like a hospital than what you think about a jail.'"

Halsey said the accreditation addresses more than just the health of the inmates.

"It includes everything from feeding clothing, housing, exercise, visitation, access to telephones to make contact with family members, rehabilitation programs, various drug and alcohol rehabilitation, social religious services," he said.

Halsey said one of the biggest challenges for the jail staff are inmates with mental health concerns.

"A big one for us is mental health," he said. "We have inmates come to jail with mental health issues and that's a big burden for us. But we have great psychological staff that undertakes that and gets them the help they need. For quite a few of these folks it doesn't do them any good to stay in jail. They need treatment elsewhere."

Halsey acknowledged that not every jail is accredited, but said the program helps Douglas jailers care for their charges.

The program requires monthly training of all Douglas jail staff and an annual recertification by contracted medical staff, consisting of Dr. John Holman, Psychiatrist Joe McEllistrem, and nurses Shari Dixon and Pat Brown.

The achievement is due in large part to the efforts of Sgt. Amy Savage, a 16-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, who spearheaded training, recommended changes in policies and procedures, and coordinated facility inspections to meet the strict NCCHC standards, according to Halsey.

This year the jail implemented protocols for pregnant women addicted to opoids. The jail already had a protocol for helping opoid-addicted inmates to get clean, but that there were additional means to help pregnant women detox.

He said the contracted medical and psychological staff were key to the jail's success.

The accreditation is also important in protecting county taxpayers from legal action.

"It's worth going through these steps to prevent losing one couple-of-million-dollar lawsuit," Halsey said.

The award ceremony was Nov. 6 in Chicago.