For the second time in the month of March, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department opened its doors up to the public for tours of the current jail facility in Adel. The most recent tour was held on Sunday, March 19.
Sgt. Adam Howard took groups of people to the jail facility and showed people the offices, the control room, detox cells, the isolation cell and more to show the shortcomings they have in their current facility. Visitors were not able to go through cell blocks due to a fight they had in the jail earlier that day.
After seeing a few of the offices and rooms near the front of the jail facility, Howard took the group to the sally port, where inmates are brought in to jail in a vehicle. Howard pointed out that they were using the sally port for storage, in addition to being the place where inmates are brought in.
The visitors were showed the holding cell where inmates are kept while they are being processed and while blood tests are being done. Howard said that recently had to remove a bench from the holding cell to allow for the inclusion of the blood testing machine.
Additionally, they have to keep the inmates in another room before and while the testing is happening for DUIs and things like that, so they have to find another area to hold them.
“The booking room gets really full really fast if you have more than one inmate come in at a time,” Howard said. “Our holding cage… is where we try to put them to keep them from walking around while we’re processing them.”
The State of Iowa mandates that prisoners be given a certain amount of sunlight and fresh air each day, but the Dallas County Jail currently does not have any fresh air that goes into the jail. This is one area that they fail each time the jail inspector comes.
“We just violate that and we’re kind of forgiven because there’s nothing we can do,” Howard said. “When the jail inspector comes through, we do fail in a lot of areas and he puts that in his report that, really, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
After the tour, Sheriff Chad Leonard talked about the need for a new facility and answered questions about any of the visitors may have had.
One of the first things he pointed to was the efficiency they would have in checking on inmates in the new facility versus how they have to do it now. Right now, in addition to having someone watching on cameras in the control room, they have someone who walks around to each cell and checks on each prisoner and logs what they are doing.
The new facility would be two stories and made mostly of one-way glass.
“I can have one person in the control room stand right there, they’re four feet off the ground and they’re in, basically, a glass cubicle,” Leonard said. “It’s all one-way glass. The prisoners will not be able to see the staff, but the staff will be able to see every prisoner.
“So that person in the middle of this new facility can just spin around and see all 130 beds that are being proposed in this facility. So, basically, eliminating that one person who walks the hallways constantly to log prisoners.”
Leonard said he is asked a lot whether or not they would have to hire more people to run the proposed facility, and he says that they won’t and that the new facility would free a lot of people up to take on other duties.
Another main talking point that was brought up by Leonard was the addition of a kitchen on the proposed facility. Their own kitchen is something the Dallas County Jail has never had and could significantly reduce the costs of feeding the prisoners.
He said that last year, Dallas County spent $196,000 on feeding prisoners and that the cost of contracting meals out of Adel Home Care costs $5.85 per meal, or $17.55 per day.
“When in reality, with your own kitchen and you contract through prison food companies, they come in and cook it on site and the trustees serve it,” Leonard said. “We should be able to feed every inmate for less than $4 a day.”
The new facility would also have a court room for initial appearances, which could be done in person or by video conference with the judge. There would be a public viewing area as well, as public viewing is required by State law.
Julian Gibson of Dallas Center, said that he was supportive of the proposed new jail facility before taking the tour and that he was still in favor after getting a chance to see the facility.
“Dallas County does need it because we’re growing quite well,” Gibson said.
Dan Haymond of Perry had similar feelings and a similar experience at the tour.
“Well I’ve felt all along that Dallas County needs a new jail because I knew they were taking inmates to different counties and the costs of that and the security of that, so I was for it,” Haymond said. “And this has given me some more information to back that up, really see what the building has become and the problems that they have.”
Haymond said he thought the tour was a good idea and that he knows more about this project than previous projects because of the tour.
More tours of the Dallas County Jail are coming up on April 2 and April 24. The tours begin at 5 p.m. and again about every half hour until 7 p.m.