Some television shows portray jail as almost glamorous, in this special report FOX 31's Romney Smith takes you inside the Dougherty County jail to see what life is really like behind bars.
When you're handcuffed, in the back of a cop car, and taken to jail, reality sets in quickly that the experience will be unlike anything else. I know it won't be fun and I've been guaranteed that there will be no privacy.Read more Behind Bars Part Two Romney's Jail Diary Inmates Question Romney Inmate Abuse Marissa Calhoun's Story
The Dougherty County Jail has nearly 1,000 inmates behind bars. Jail Director Colonel John Ostrander says it takes three key things to make the jail work. "First we have a very detailed set of policies and procedures that are designed around agency and industry best practices. The second thing is we have a multi tiered level of supervision that oversees every facet of our operation. The third and the most critical is we have an incredible staff" says Ostrander.
When someone first arrives at the jail all of their belongings are taken away, they're frisked, and have to change clothes. Red jumpsuits are for maximum security, blue are for medium and minimum security, orange is for those on work detail, and khaki jumpsuits are for minors.
For processing and identification purposes all inmates have their mug shot taken, finger prints done, given the jail handbook to review, and go through an extensive health background check. The jail handbook is the set of policy and procedures that all inmates must follow. It details everything from their daily schedule to defining disciplinary infractions and the associated consequences. Every question you could possibly think of is in the handbook.
Detention Officer Josh Williams has worked at the Dougherty County Jail for two years and says every inmate he encounters is different. "Some inmates you have no problems with at all. They're good from the time they get here until the time they leave. Some inmates are just bad. From the minute they get here until the minute they go to prison, they are problematic" says Williams.
Maximum security inmates, mental health inmates, and inmates on suicide watch are guarded the strictest. Minimum security inmates play cards, make phone calls, read, and take classes to complete their GED, participate in religious services, or work.
Inmates on good behavior are allowed to work to shave days off of their sentence, but it's not exactly equal work for equal time off. For every five days worked they get one day taken off of their sentence. Work detail includes jobs like cleaning the jail, washing and folding clothes, cooking inmate meals, and picking up trash on the highway. Col. Ostrander says the work detail is a type of rewarding discipline. "For some inmates it's a relief because they're going back to a work routine that they may have been familiar with on the outside, and for other inmates it's creating a habit of a work routine they may never have had before and that will benefit from once they get out" says Ostrander.
Free time consists of a pre-determined amount of time in the general area and sometimes they are allowed outside. Free time outside consists of a cage - no weights, no television, nothingâ|just an open cage where they can see the sky and breathe fresh air.
Officers say most people aren't sure what working in a jail or being in jail is likeâ|and they hope they never have to experience it.
Even though I only stayed in jail overnight, the affects will last a lifetime.
In part two of Behind Bars you'll see how years in and out of the Dougherty County Jail has impacted the lives of two inmates.