GIRARD — I was loaded into a van and hauled to the Crawford County Jail Thursday.
I didn’t commit a crime. I was there with the rest of the Pittsburg Police Department Citizens’ Academy class to take a tour of the jail and learn about what the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department does.
“They do a lot we don’t do, and we do a lot they don’t,” PPD Sgt. Chris Moore said. “But we work very closely and very well together.”
Undersheriff Steve Geier spoke about the duties of the sheriff’s department, including running the jail, patrolling the county and managing dispatch for Emergency Medical Services, rural fire departments and the sheriff’s department itself.
The sheriff’s department currently has 34 commissioned deputies, and the current jail was built in 1997.
“We were thankful to get it,” Geier said. “The old jail was three stories tall and was just falling apart.
“It was not a safe environment for us or the inmates.”
The jail has 102 beds, and the population Thursday evening was 83 inmates.
“That number changes all the time,” Geier said. “It fluctuates constantly and we can get lower and much higher.”
The jail holds any person who is arrested in Crawford County, and suspects arrested by PPD are taken directly to Girard.
The jail also “farms in” inmates from other counties that do not have room. The jail currently has six inmates from Linn County and charges a rate of $30 per day to house them. The regular rate is $40, but the jail currently has a contract with Linn County for the lower rate.
The highest population the jail has seen was 116 inmates, but Geier said around 80 is comfortable.
“Much more and it starts to get crowded,” he said. “Inmates get restless and we see a lot more problems when it is full.”
On the tour, we saw the jail’s maximum, minimum and medium security sections. The jail also has separation cells for housing particularly uncontrollable inmates and observation cells, which are padded to keep inmates from hurting themselves.
Inmates at the jail have access to indoor and outdoor recreation areas, a library, television, phones and visitation.
Currently the county is moving to video visitation through kiosks in the jail, and Geier said soon all visitation will be through video, making logistics easier and saving family members from having to travel to the jail.
Inmates also have access to commissary, which allows loved ones to deposit money inmates can use to purchase food and other items.
“Ramen noodles are a big deal,” Geier said. “We get a lot of orders for those from commissary.”
Inmates also have access to mental health, substance abuse and anger management counseling, as well as worship services and work release — under certain conditions.
In 2016, the jail processed over 2,300 inmates and since January 1 has transported 22 inmates to prison.
The sheriff’s department also employees deputies as school resource officers at Pittsburg High School, Pittsburg Community Middle School and USD 247. They also have detectives who investigate everything from livestock theft to homicide to sexual abuse cases.
“A lot of the detectives’ work is on sexual abuse cases,” Geier said.
The sheriff’s department also has a Tactical Response Team, similar to PPD’s Special Response Team, which serves high-risk warrants among other duties.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.