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Editorial - After Hours Jail Management

Special to the Metro

One of a Sheriff’s greatest responsibilities is running the jail. Here in Dougherty County, we have one of the larger jails in Georgia, capable of housing over 1200 inmates.

The Dougherty County Jail is over 376,000 square feet and is comprised of fifteen housing units for minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates. The facility also houses a medical clinic, mental health unit, admission and release area, classrooms for substance abuse and GED instruction, commissary, commercial laundry facility, warehouse, maintenance shop, courtrooms, urine testing lab, training facility, administrative office space and one of the county’s largest commercial kitchens. There is obviously an entire command structure to oversee the operation of the jail facility – at least during the daytime, Monday through Friday.

After hours and on weekends, the total responsibility for the functioning of the jail rests with a Watch Commander (Captain), or if that person is on leave, an Assistant Watch Commander (Lieutenant).

In previous articles, I have highlighted certain employees and I want to take this opportunity to highlight the eight individuals who run the four shifts at the jail. The Watch Commanders are Captain John Collier, Captain Ventura (Rocky) Mendoza, Captain Dorothy Stephens, and Captain Willie West. These captains average over twenty-two years of experience in the jail. Their Assistant Watch Commanders are Lieutenant Tony Brown, Lieutenant Chuck Faulk, Lieutenant Thomas Kendrick, and Lieutenant Rowell LeFrancois. These lieutenants average over nineteen years of experience. In total, these eight individuals represent one hundred sixty-seven years of service with this Sheriff’s Office.

In a jail, situations occur spontaneously and develop rapidly. In one housing area there may be an inmate who is refusing to lock down and trying to convince other inmates to join in the defiance. In another housing area there may be inmate experiencing chest pain. Another housing area may have inmates in opposing gangs trying to claim their “turf”. With fifteen housing areas and hundreds of inmates, there are constant issues and events happening. There is often no time to call the Director of Security or the Jail Director to advise them or ask for direction. The supervisor running the shift must make good decisions without direction, knowing that those decisions will be severely scrutinized by jail management, the Sheriff, and possibly the media, the courts, and the public.

Along with all of this, these supervisors must manage scheduling with positions that absolutely must be filled even though there are over thirty vacancies. With the short staff they have, they must ensure their folks get the necessary training and use their vacation time to avoid burnout.

All in all, the Watch Commanders and their assistants have a huge responsibility. They take that responsibility very seriously and handle it very well. I am very blessed to have such competent leadership present on each shift in the jail.

If you would like to know more about the functions carried out at the jail, or if you have questions about any area of operation within the Sheriff’s Office, please feel free to contact us at 229-430-6508.