Our Sheriff, Gil Gilbertson, has allowed a major rule in his inmate handbook to be ignored by staff and inmates ever since he has taken office. In this, he has followed the lead of his predecessors, despite being informed of the underlying problem before he ever took office, and repeatedly since. Indeed, he has informed the County Commissioners in public session, on TV, that he has instructed staff to ignore the rule that inmates must leave bedding on the bunks, and told them to allow inmates to wear blankets in the common areas of the pod.
The rule has been routinely ignored because the clothing that the sheriff issues to inmates-a short-sleeved cotton jumpsuit, small underwear, socks, and sandals-is, for many inmates, insufficient for the temperature the sheriff maintains in the jail. Rather than increase their clothing, our sheriff prefers to risk the safety of his officers.
There is a good reason for the rule he ignores. A blanket wrapped around a prisoner can be used to hide contraband or a weapon. It can even be used as a weapon, to take down and disable an officer.
In a recent episode, a woman in the jail was told by a guard to keep her blanket on her bunk. The inmate told the guard to cite her, but she would not obey. She was not sanctioned for breaking the rule or disobeying the guard. It doubtless would have raised the question of why she felt she needed to wear a blanket.
This is not good for jail discipline, staff morale, or officer safety. Yet our sheriff has given no reason for not issuing long underwear, beyond, “We aren’t a hotel.”
Then maybe he should quit calling it “lodging” when he takes someone captive.
Perhaps the real reason he doesn’t want to adequately clothe his prisoners is a second unwritten rule: arrestees are not given a blanket until they fill out a booking information sheet on themselves. This rule appears designed to weed out prisoners who know their right to remain silent and to break their will, through torture by chilling.
I was tortured in this manner for 6 hours when I was arrested, until I gave in. Others have been held all night without a blanket. But I didn’t know it was a routine rule until an ex-deputy innocently told us so in defense of the sheriff on ILoveGrantsPass.com, in the “Good and Evil” thread on the Grants Pass Political Discussion forum. The discussion has been spun off into “Routine Torture in Jospehine’s Jail.” (Apologies to Josephine for the typo in the title.)