BOARD of VISITORS (BOV)

This is a new program for Franklin County Sheriff's Office / Franklin County Detention Center, implemented in 2019 by your Sheriff in order to invite the expertise of citizens in Franklin County, (specifically in the fields of technology, education, medical and mental health) to provide oversight and recommendations in the areas of public safety and security, jail staff safety, as well as inmate mental health and safety.

We would like to thank the Board of Visitors for their professionalism, time and dedication to improving the Franklin County Detention Center. We take the recommendations made by the board seriously. The first annual report (July, 2020) covered several areas with recommendations for:

  • Staff Recruitment and Retention

  • Upgrades to the Building and Technology

  • Medical and Mental Health Program Improvements

  • Inmate Community Reentry Improvements

 

Many of the recommendations in this report have been implemented (prior to receipt of the report), while others are being considered based upon urgency and budget restraints. The following covers some of those items recommended by the Board of Visitors and the current status (response) to each:

Recruitment and Retention of Staff

Recommendations:

Recruitment: Partner with schools that offer criminal justice programs; offer competitive salary, benefits and retirement to offset the stressors of this work.

​Retention: Facility and equipment upgrades; offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP); self-care education; de-escalation and mental health first aid training; staff training with an emphasis on understanding mental illness and substance abuse disorder (SUD); Corrections Officers (CO's) continuing education; debriefing process for critical incidents; adequate staffing to allow for vacation and leave time; staff recognition program that acknowledges the good work and positive contributions of staff members.

Response:

Recruitment

1. We have in the past and will continue to attend job fairs promoting Corrections as a career. The suggested colleges have been contacted to place ads on their web pages when available.

2. Franklin County is in the upper middle pay scale for corrections officer pay; good benefits and retirement packages are available.

3. We have a long-term ad running for corrections officers on the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (MCJA) website.

Retention

1. All of the recommended training is covered through FCDC annual training that meets the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) Standards, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (MCJA) and Maine Department of Labor mandatory continuing education training. In addition to that training, new officers attend the MCJA Basic Corrections Training Program. This five (5) week program covers many topics.

Franklin County Correctional staff have four (4) certified dedicated instructors that volunteer to teach at the MCJA BCTP.

2. Maintaining adequate staffing is a nationwide problem due to the nature of the job. We all wear multiple hats to assist each other in any way possible. This respect for each other not only happens here in Franklin County but extends to other nearby counties and state facilities.

3. Franklin County recognizes Officers of the Quarter and Officer of the year. These officers are chosen by their peers and the names are presented to administration. Sheriff Nichols prepares certificates and plaques for the receiving officers. There have been other lifesaving awards presented to Corrections staff due to their outstanding efforts and attention to details.

4. In the last 4-5 years Jail Command staff has made the physical and mental health and wellbeing of its officers a priority, as it had been largely ignored and left up to the individual. The stress the job puts on the life of an officer is something that many do not anticipate or plan for.

5. We heartily recommend responsibly taking earned time off, planning vacations in advance, and regular exercise. No Limits Fitness is an excellent, 24 hour gym located in Farmington that offers significant discounts for Corrections Officers. We recommend it highly to all staff. There is also some exercise equipment for staff in the attic to utilize.

6. Critical incident debriefings are something that Sheriff Nichols made available to Corrections staff. The mental health of the Corrections division was not of concern to previous administrations. The LT is also available for any officer, at any time, for a closed door venting session.

Infrastructure and Technology

Recommendations:

Building: medical office needs more space, improved furnishings and layout; a dedicated conference room should be identified; office space is needed for DHHS, pre-trial servics and individual counseling; visitation area should be more comfortable and user-friendly for contact visits by families of trustees as provided for in state regulations; indoor exercise area should be identified with equipment in good repair.

Record-keeping: unified corrections records software options should be investigated; data file-merging options should be identified; provision should be made for scanning or otherwise digitizing paper files; medical software should be compatible with community and hospital practices, and kept separate from corrections files.

Security system: obsolete control room switching panel and door lock systems need upgrading; security cameras need upgrading to include tilt and pan functionality; control room needs all viewable wiring runs eliminated.

Staff and inmate furnishings: exercise equipment needs repair; bedding should be replaced; bathroom fixtures are in need of repair or upgrade; clean laundry should be available daily to inmates; furniture in the control room, pre-trial/DHHS, and the medical clinic should be replaced wth ergonomic items in good repair.

Education and communications: funding for current text and library books are necessary; computer access should be upgraded to allow for on-line learning and job searches; the cost to inmates of using the telephone is excessive; there is a need for a second phone in the medium-security area; information to improve comfort with use of the visitation space, including timing issues, instructions for using the intercom, adequate seating.

Response:

Building

1. The facility has limited space in general. The Medical room is definitely small quarters. This is the only space within the secure facility where Corrections can safely escort inmates without going through the Public lobby. We have tried to identify another space for medical records. Having spoken with the administrator for our current medical provider, having a separate room for medical records would be burdensome at best. The medical staff would still have to have computer access and a desk in the exam room. The other option is to expand the building to create a larger medical room. This is being explored by our maintenance manager. The expense would be substantial. A. E. Hodsdon Consultant Engineer has been contacted. The entire inside of the facility has been painted by the Maintenance manager, Administrative staff and inmate workers over the past few months as the population has been limited during the pandemic.

2. We currently have a multi-purpose room for which we can and currently use as a conference room. We use the current library for meetings, Inmate programs, training, interviews etc. Pre-Covid, we have also used the conference room at dispatch.

3. Maine Pre-trial and DHHS Intense Care Managers (ICM) share a large room which seems to work out well as they often share a common goal to provide inmates with services upon their release from custody. Coordination between the two is critical. Having Maine Pre-trial and DHHS ICM in the building reduces the cost of the services. This room is also our Video Arraignment room where Maine Pre-trial attends the arraignments of inmates that are in need of a contract ordered by the Court system.

4. We have four (4) visitation areas for inmates to visit with their families. This allows for four (4) inmates to visit every half hour for three hours each evening, Sunday through Friday and one weekend day (Saturday). This plan exceeds the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) Mandatory Standard (J.10) for visitation which states: The Administrator should establish a visiting schedule which includes opportunities for at least two hours each week for general population inmates to visit with family and friends, to include at least one weekend day and one evening during the week. The facility should provide for special visits outside of visiting hours when necessary.

FCDC does not allow contact visits. More comfortable visiting areas are not feasible. The area for visitation needs to be made of surfaces that are easily disinfected and maintained with security in mind at all times. The facility must also comply with NFPA codes for fire protection, which largely rules out anything 'comfortable' in a correctional environment.

5. There is no available indoor recreation area. Without expanding the facility, the next best solution is to have a roof built over the recreation areas. We have two recreational areas: one for female inmates and one for male inmates. This idea is being explored by the Maintenance Manager. A. E. Hodsdon Consultant Engineer has been contacted.

6. Other Building needs are the following: Chiller for climate control will need to be replaced ASAP. Cost: $53,000; grease traps in the kitchen have deteriorated beyond repair and are in need of replacement, we are in the process of scheduling the work. Cost: $3,355.72

7. The duct work is in need of cleaning to improve efficiency of the system as a whole. Cost: $3,690.00

Record Keeping

1. Over the past 37 years there have been multiple Jail Record Management Systems used. As each system was replaced with a newer, better version from a new company, the previous system was not accessible anymore. This left the paper records as the only way to retrieve the old data. It is agreed that a provision should be made to digitize all the records with an additional back up. This will require additional staffing and software to process the thousands of files currently on shelving. The Franklin County IT department has provided a quote on the cost for scanners, computers, setup and training. Cost: $2,766.94. Additional cost for staffing to complete the work is unknown at this time. Full digital records will also still require hardcopy backup for when the system inevitably fails.

We have asked our medical provider if the Medical software we are currently using is compatible with community and hospital practices, we are awaiting a response.


Security System

1. There is no question that the Control room is in dire need of upgrading to maintain security of the facility. To upgrade the control panel and doors/locks, which also eliminates some of the visible cables, Cost: $250,000.

On the wish list is upgrading all of the security cameras to PTZ function. In the past few years we have upgraded the camera system to include the addition of 10 new stationary recording security cameras. At that time, due to the cost and budget restraints, this is what we decided to purchase. We do have PTZ features on key outside cameras. We are currently seeking Grants for security and ergonomic upgrades.


Staff and Inmate Furnishings

1. There is one piece of exercise equipment in the outside recreation yard for the inmates to use as well as a basketball hoop. The inmates have a football and basketball and Hacky sack available to them as well. The padding on the arm rest of the one piece of exercise equipment does need to be replaced. This piece of exercise equipment is old but still very functional. The arm padding would be nearly impossible to find a replacement for. At the request of the inmates we can upgrade the equipment and purchase a new machine for them. Correctional grade equipment is necessary and expensive. We must also bear in mind security and durability concerns. Cost: $3,085.

2. All inmates have the option to exchange bedding on a weekly basis. The mattresses are Correctional grade mattresses with built in pillows to save on the purchase of pillows and pillowcases and sanitation of each between uses. We have repair kits for mattresses that have been damaged by the inmate population. We just bought 10 new mattresses in February, 2019. Inmates with chronic back problems are issued two mattresses when medically necessary and by medical recommendation only.

3. Bathroom fixtures are repaired as needed. The Facility Maintenance Manager has spare parts on hand to fix any leaks or problems that occur. The showers are the most challenging to maintain due to the almost constant use. The walls of the showers are made concrete block. Even with drying, sanding, painting and sealing, the paint on the walls of the shower will still peel. We have entertained putting stainless steel liners in the showers. Each shower would have to be custom fitted with security fixtures. Again the cost of this would be significant, and would have to be spread over several budgets.

4. The inmate population is issued two sets of clean laundry every other day. This exceeds the Maine Depatment of Corrections (MDOC) Mandatory standard (O.15) for laundry as it only requires clean laundry twice weekly. This standard states: O.15. MANDATORY Laundry services shall be sufficient to allow for the following exchanges: a.) Clothing at least twice weekly; b.) Linen at least once weekly; c.) Towels at least twice weekly; d.) Blankets at least monthly, or before being reissued to another inmate; and e.) Clothing for inmates working in food services daily.

5. With the new fiscal year July 1, new chairs were purchased for the Control room to replace the aging chairs. Pre-trial provides their own furniture to use. The medical department as a whole is being looked at for an upgrade.

Education and Communication

1. There is funding available for books for the Library through the Inmate Benefit Fund. The Jail Administrator met with both the Detention Center Librarian and the Executive Director of Adult Education in August, 2020 and asked them for a report on what we could do better and at what cost it would take to implement any changes. The computer access was upgraded in August, 2020 to allow for online learning and job searches. We are also in the process of adding inmate tablets to the facility, which provide free access to educational materials, reading material, games, as well as serving as an additional phone in the cell block. The tablet program was delayed due to COVID and a frozen cable line caused by poor drainage, which is also being addressed.

2. Thirteen Maine counties have a contract with the same security based company. With 13 counties using the same system, a savings is offered. The cost associated with calling from a correctional facility is more than a regular household. The calls are recorded and stored. There are special non recorded numbers and hot line numbers that can be dialed. Any revenues generated by the phone calls are deposited into the Inmate Benefit Fund and used exclusively for the inmate population. We are in the process of providing special security tablets to the inmate population to use. The inmates will be able to make calls from their tablet as well as file requests, access educational materials, email letters and the list goes on. There will be no need for an additional phone in the cell block.

3. There are Visit rules posted in the Lobby and in the Visit rooms for visitors. We have an activity Officer that helps supervise the visits and monitors the rooms on camera as well as the control room Officer.

General

1. OSHA and Maine Department of Labor has been to the facility, all corrective actions were 100% completed in December of 2016. On January 17, 2019, the Town of Farmington Code Enforcement Officer as well as Captain Hardy of the Farmington Fire Department inspected the facility and found it to be in Compliance. On February 5, 2020 an inspection of the facility by the Maine Fire Marshalls Office determined the facility was in compliance with NFPA 101 Life Safety Code 2018 edition. This inspection takes place every two years.

Medical and Mental Health

Recommendations:

Physical plants: upgrade for better conditions and more space for medical office; dedicated mental health counseling space; thoughtful placement of emergency equipment; proximity of medical and mental health service spaces to improve ongoing communication.

Staffing: 3 nurses is the minimum necessary to cover all required hours; more staff engaged in reentry - social work, case managers, corrections officers.

Communication: Communication among all staff by regular staff meetings, onging contact around clinical or behavioral issues as they present.

Treatment capabilities: policy for induction of MAT (Medically Assisted Treatment) program; funding is available to implement MAT, but has not been applied for by FC Detention Center; funding should be actively pursued by FCDC administration and the Sheriff's Office.

Inmate mental health/social support: Group and individual therapies that foster self-awareness, recognition and management of emotions, stress management, ability to relate to others, tolerance of emotional distress, managing impulsiveness and anger control; Opportunity for more and different forms of exercise, indoor and outdoor; Shower and laundry availability if clothing needs laundering more frequently than is currently available or if disciplinary measures such as pepper spray are employed; Parenting while incarcerated-maintaining connection w/children, preparation for rebuilding family life post-incarceration; Preparation for employment-job training, VOC rehab, expansion/development of work programs for inmates in the jail itself and in the community; Preparing for housing, transportation needs; Involvement of community resources such as Healthy Community Coalition/RACE to facilitate access to MAT, recovery coaches, other community resources on SUD being developed; DV prevention-Alternatives to Abuse program provided by Safe Voices.

Reentry planning: Seamless handoff to community medical providers for primary care, SUD treatment;
Connection to mental health and SA treatment providers in the community; Maintenance of MaineCare, Medicare insurance coverage and reactivation on release.

Response:

1. Medical Room is on the radar for a furniture upgrade to include a new desk. Budget restraints are a factor. There is no other place in the facility that we can house the Medical room within the secure facility. The contracted medical provider is responsible for the hiring of the nursing staff. They have been having the same trouble recruiting nursing staff due to the nature of the Correctional setting. There are now three nurses rotating on the schedule bringing some relief.

2. Groups are open to the entire inmate population as long as the inmate engages in the program. Programs have resumed. Somerset County Jail Programs Manager was contacted. We were informed Somerset offers the same basic programs as Franklin. We share the same educational teacher. The FCDC has improved the educational experience by custom designing a program for each inmate to maximize learning.

3. Staffing. Due to the budget we have been denied for years to add additional officers to the floor and transport. We have our Mental Health, Pre-Trial and DHHS Intense Care Manager all in contact when someone is in need of services upon release, however there are many times an inmate is arrested and released within a very short period of time. We are trying to restart our monthly programs meetings to include; Education, Medical, Pre-trial, DHHS, administration, programs officers and Corrections Sergeants. This has been a past practice that has been unavailable due to the COVID pandemic.

4. MAT (Medically Assisted Treatment) Program. This program was implemented in the spring of 2020 and is still evolving from its original plan. We are working with the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC), State Prison and County Jails to improve the MAT Program. We have been in contact with the Healthy Community Coalition of Franklin County for several months working on a training for inmates and just completed our first Naloxone training program for the inmate population. This program covers some of the following: Overdose Prevention, Recognizing an Opioid Overdose, Responding, Dosage and administration, Care of individual and Laws. Pamphlets with contact information to receive Naloxone and a first aid bag upon release is given to inmates for future reference. A monthly training has been scheduled for any inmate interested.

Inmate Mental Health / Social Support

1. Group and individual therapies are currently part of the Mental Health programs. These cover a multitude of self-managing evidence based practices.

2. Exercise equipment is limited. However the inmate population has an opportunity to go outside for a minimum of 1 hour daily (sometimes more) to run, walk, play basketball, use the body weight machine, throw the football etc.

3. FCDC exceeds the laundry exchange Mandatory standards set by the Maine Department of Corrections. If an inmate has been exposed to OC spray they are decontaminated with a shower and clean clothing is given. There may be other instances where exchanges of laundry are necessary and met by Corrections staff.

4. Visitation allows for children to visit a parent while incarcerated as long as they are accompanied by a guardian. Letters are allowed as long as there is not a no-contact in place. Nurturing Fathers was a program that was brought to the FCDC under a Federal grant through the Children’s Task Force. We are exploring to see if that program is still available. During the pandemic resources have been limited.

5. The FCDC offers the Sentenced inmate population various work programs to help reduce the length of stay and give them an opportunity to be productive while incarcerated. Inmate Worker, Public Works, and Work Release are all part of this program. Each program has a set of rules and regulations associated with the program. If inmates do not meet the criteria, they are not allowed to participate.

6. Connections to the resources outside of our custody are provided by DHHS, and an Intense Case Manager (ICM). That individual has helped an unprecedented number of inmates connect with housing needs and many other needs they may have. Corrections, Mental Health, and Medical will refer inmates to the ICM on a regular basis. Corrections staff regularly refers inmates to ICM when they perceive that the inmate could use outside services. The Appendix the BOV has provided us has been added to the Inmate Handbook and uploaded to the county website.

7. The Sheriff has worked diligently to provide adequate PPE to all, including the medical department. We have not had to do without PPE during this continuing pandemic.

Reentry of Released Inmates

Recommentations:

Education: Up-to-date library resources including a budget for books and access to online learning and research.

Preparation for employment: There should be opportunity for inmates to participate in work projects at the Detention Center and in the community; Programs that build skills applicable to employment should be made available; Job and career coaching should be available.

Transportation: Coordination with transportation providers so that inmates who are released without access to transportation can be safely discharged to a known destination

Housing: Housing for released inmates should be identified; these resources may need to be developed within the community.

Staffing and communication: Discharge planning should include all staff including medical and mental health staff so that these needs can be addressed and continuity of care can be assured; Regular staff meetings, including corrections officers, medical and mental health providers, and probation officers, should occur with sufficient regularity that staff feel supported and services are coordinated between corrections officers and other staff; Connection with community providers should be fostered and encouraged so that gaps in community service can be identified and resources developed.

Provision of information: Parts of the Inmate Handbook is online but is difficult to access. Accessibility should be reviewed and streamlined. Print version should also be available and updated whenever significant changes are posted online; Handbook should include resources for reentry in Franklin County.

Networking: Contact with Maine Reentry Network should be initiated to help provide a framework for development of solutions to the problems that increase recidivism; Contact with other Detention Center administration may provide ideas about resources that are available but are not currently accessed ; Networking may assist with grant writing to support the changes that are deemed most urgent and necessary.

Response:

Connections to the resources outside of our custody are provided by the DHHS Intense Care Manager (ICM). The ICM has helped an unprecedented number of inmates connect with housing needs and many other needs they may have. Corrections, Mental Health and Medical will refer inmates to the ICM on a regular basis. Corrections staff regularly refers inmates to the ICM when they perceive that the inmate could use outside services.

The Appendix the BOV has provided us has been added to the Inmate Handbook and uploaded to the county website.

A packet will be given to each of the following as a guide; Clearwater Counseling & Consultation, (whom provided us with this guide), DHHS ICM, Maine Pre-Trial.

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© 2020 by  Re-Elect Nichols for Sheriff 2020. Paid for by the candidate.