Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Jeff, Sheriff Deputy

*This is, hopefully, the beginning of a large part of my project. I would like to do various interviews and ridealongs with law enforcement agencies. 

I’ve developed a nice friendship with Kent County Sheriff Deputies during the past several months, and the majority of them work at the jail.

So, naturally I asked them if I could come in an tour the jail.

Wednesday, I had the opportunity. Almost any one could do if they’d like, but most people won’t ever do it. It might be because they’re scared. Maybe they think it’s nice.

Jeff, my buddy and tour guide, said his sister said she would never visit the jail, despite a standing invitation.

The jail itself is actually quite cool. It’s extremely quiet and clean. The heavy doors, sliding and locking offers an oddly calming noise to the facility.

It’s a confusing building, easy to get lost in. Jeff said his first few days were a whirlwind, mostly in trying not to get lost.

Sections of the jail are set for different levels of security. There’s maximum, that’s on reserved for the high-profile guys you see on the news. They stay locked down much of the day. We chatted for a few minutes with the guy who runs the turret in the center of the floor. The cells wrap around the floor.

There’s medium security as well as low, and a women’s floor. Each floor has a section for disciplinary inmates, the one’s that got in trouble. There’s general population. And


kentjail

there’s a section for mental illness and suicide watch.

A lot of the inmates have a lot of free time and hangout in an activity room that has TVs and tables for games and such.

The higher security guys on lockdown are a little eerie. They watch you pretty closely. Probably gets pretty boring, so it’s likely a common response.

 

The jail recently cut back on employees. So instead of deputies working the doors on every floor, there’s a centralized command center on the first floor which controls entrance into areas, and the elevators. Then cell doors are controlled by computers and deputies on the floor. Doors inbetween are unlocked by key.

Right now, the jail is repainting and getting pretty for the American Jail Association’s 32nd Annual Training Conference and Jail Expo. That’s May 5-9, at the DeVos Place.

Also in the jail right now is a reality show that will be set to air in August.

 

Mostly, the visit to the jail kind of surprised me with being a civil place, and not all that horrible. Still, I never want to spend any time there.

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