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  • nineteen56_TBIRD nineteen56_TBIRD Aug 10, 1999 7:26 PM Flag

    Historical Pespective necessary

    Escapes rampant

    But behind the
    pink-colored exterior, metal detector and security cameras is
    a facility riddled with problems. In addition to
    the alleged sexual misconduct, ''walk-away'' escapes
    have averaged two to three a week, according to a log
    maintained by the Broward Sheriff's Office.

    have been other snafus, including staff releasing the
    wrong inmate and inmates being sent out on work release
    during holiday weekends, when they were supposed to be
    confined to the center.

    In yet another incident, an
    employee dialed 911 and advised the center ''had someone
    down'' and needed help. BSO responded as if it were an
    ''officer down'' call, sending several units and alerting
    both the SWAT team and Field Force teams.

    turned out an inmate had slipped on the

    The latest incident -- still under investigation by
    BSO -- occurred on July 29 when an employee quit
    after learning he was the subject of a BSO inquiry into
    rumors that he and a female inmate had been involved
    sexually for at least two months.

    The contract with
    Wackenhut was negotiated before Jenne became Broward's
    sheriff, and he says it is not one he would have agreed
    to. Jenne is adamantly opposed to the privatization
    of jail facilities.

    But Jenne insists he is
    not trying to end the experiment.

    ''We think
    the contract needs to be readdressed so that we can
    be compensated for investigatory costs and we have
    the authority to go in there and make the necessary
    changes,'' Jenne said.

    Jackson said relations
    between Wackenhut and BSO have been frosty and
    adversarial from the beginning.

    ''Since he [Jenne] has
    taken office he has never come over to this center,''
    Jackson said.

    Lower pay

    officers at the work release center have a starting salary
    of about $20,000 -- compared to about $27,000 at
    corrections centers run by the county. The Broward Sheriff's
    Office says Wackenhut has hired some jailers who have
    themselves been previously charged with

    That's possible, Jackson said, but he said BSO does the
    company's background checks.

    To ensure that the
    center is being run properly, the sheriff's office has
    from time to time dispatched officers posing as
    inmates with drugs planted on them. Wackenhut did not
    detect them, BSO officials said, an indication of lax

    Another indication of lax procedures: one inmate
    reassigned from the work-release center to the North Broward
    Detention Center showed up with 40 crack cocaine rocks in
    his socks.

    BSO said it has had difficultly
    getting the state to prosecute misconduct by jailers at
    the work-release center because jailers employed by a
    private firm are not necessarily bound by the same rules
    as those employed by the government.

    instance, when one jailer was accused of having sex with an
    inmate, BSO was told that such relations were not a
    violation of state law.

    Jackson said he and
    Wackenhut have gone to great lengths to address problems,
    for instance, instituting random drug tests and
    regular pat-downs.

    Check-out system

    Wackenhut also recently spent $15,000 on a computerized
    check-out system and another $50,000 on a drug-detection
    machine that can detect traces of cocaine and other
    illicit substances on a returning inmate's hands or

    ''You are going to have some problems initially,''
    Jackson said. ''You ID those problems, and you try to fix
    it. You will have bumps in the road and at some point
    you hope it smooths out.''

    As for problems
    with sexual misconduct by jailers, Jackson said: ''You
    are going to have some employees who don't play by
    the rules.''


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