Progress Report - Justice Committee for the Montgomery County Jail

            Thirteen months ago, in response to numerous lawsuits brought against Montgomery County for alleged abuses, the Montgomery County Commissioners and the County Sheriff jointly selected citizens to form a non-partisan Justice Committee charged over two years to review and analyze the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the jail, and to provide the Sheriff and County Commissioners with recommendations for improvements. The committee is acutely aware that the community is waiting impatiently for its report.  This process required a great deal of education about the jail for the committee members.  The committee is now offering this progress report after its first year of work.
            The Justice Committee consists of ten members, including the Montgomery County Sheriff as a non-voting ex officio member. The Sheriff is represented on the committee by the chief deputy. The nine voting members of the committee include persons from civil rights and religious groups, law enforcement, the judiciary, ex-offender reentry, academia, and behavioral and medical health care.
            Despite the wide range of expertise represented on the committee, many of the members had little direct knowledge of the inner workings or command structure of a jail. The first task of the committee, therefore, was self-education, to become familiar with the jail and learn how each member’s unique expertise could be put to use.
            The committee toured the County Jail and received in-depth information on all aspects of jail procedure.  The committee informed itself about the training of correctional officers, staff turnover, contract negotiations and pay levels. A subcommittee of the group arranged a jail visit specifically to explore behavioral health care in the jail and will return to review the procedures for medical care. Another subcommittee, in collaboration with faculty at Sinclair College, developed an inmate survey to be administered periodically to assess inmate satisfaction with conditions and treatment in the jail. A civil rights subcommittee is focused on reviewing grievance procedures, use of force, staff biases and cultural competence.
            The committee also explored existing community alternatives to incarceration to reduce the jail population, including intercept and intervention programs for mental health and drug addiction cases, day reporting programs, and bail reform. This included a tour of the Bennet Cooper Complex which houses S.T.O.P. (Secure Transitional Offender Program) and Second Chance Thursday.
             The Justice Committee determined the need for an outside, independent, professional jail consultant to collaborate with the committee and bring knowledge of best practices in jail administration from around the country. That process culminated in the County Commission’s approval on April 10, 2018 of a contract with CGL Companies of Louisville KY, a highly qualified consultancy firm with broad experience in criminal justice operations, and a strong emphasis on correctional facilities. In May, CGL and the Justice Committee will begin a six month in-depth study of the jail, culminating in the Justice Committee’s final report toward the end of 2018.
            CGL and the Justice Committee will interview and analyze the jail population, assess satisfaction levels, program needs, grievance procedures, and use of force. Staff training will be assessed, as well as staff deployment, command structure, staffing levels, recruitment and retention.  Procedures for medical care and the delivery of mental health programs in the jail will be examined, including the assessment process, available programs to serve inmate needs, and means for directing persons to mental health or addiction treatment instead of jail. Finally, the committee and consultant will evaluate the adequacy of physical facilities to meet the needs of staff and inmate security, as well as inmate programming.
            The Justice Committee will submit its final report to the County Commission and the Sheriff, but also to the citizens of Montgomery County. We hope that, if we have done our job well, the community will safeguard that its recommendations are followed, and that our jail will set the highest standards in the nation for justice, security, and inmate care.
About the Justice Committee for the Montgomery County Jail
The Justice Committee for the Montgomery County Jail is a local, independent committee whose function is to review how jail policies and procedures are implemented to insure that best practices are used.  The committee consists of nine members representing law enforcement, civil rights, religious groups, judiciary, academia and health care. The Sheriff serves as an ex-officio member.
Justice Committee Members
Rabbi Bernard Barsky – Co-Chair
Dr. Gary LeRoy – Co-Chair
Kurt E. Althouse
Branford Brown
Michael Carter
Stephanie Cook
David Fox
Judge Gregory Singer
Carole Smerz
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer (ex-officio)