By Nate Smith Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — For the second consecutive year, the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department is hosting a national conference for sheriffs and jail commanders.
Sixty sheriffs and jail commanders from across Indiana and surrounding states have come to the Abe Knepp seminar room at the security center to learn about the latest and best procedures on in-custody deaths. The seminar started Tuesday and ends today.
The seminar on what to if an inmate dies while in a jail or correctional facility is the first to be taught exclusively in Indiana.
Although seldom reported or even talked about, jails and correctional facilities can face serious issues with lawsuits if the proper steps are not followed. Attendees learned the legal, operational and psychological aspects of managing inmate death from some of the leading experts in the field. Tate McCotter of the National Sheriff’s Association said the issue is very important, given the nature of correctional facilities.
“Jails period are the biggest liability for counties across the country,” McCotter said. “When we start dealing with deaths, there has to be intensive training on what jailers face and sheriffs need to know and do to manage that.”
Throughout the three-day seminar, attendees learned how to develop policies and procedures that would not only protect the jails through liability, but also protect inmates and jail staff should something happen. The Indiana Sheriff’s Association approached the National Sheriff’s Association, along with the association’s Institute for Jail Operations to facilitate the seminar. Since the association had hosted a seminar in Daviess County last year, they wanted to come back.
“Steve Luce (of the Indiana Sheriff’s Association) and a number of sheriffs said we need this training and we need this in our backyard,” McCotter said.
Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit said this seminar is the first of its kind in Indiana and was happy to bring it to Daviess County. He called the training “top notch.”
“Most of the time, this type of training is only available in the big cities,” Harbstreit said. “We’ve often talked that if you are going to have an in-custody death, we want to be well trained when we do.”
Jeff Kyle is a jail commander for the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department who was attending the seminar. He said the training has been beneficial to take back to his department.
“You don’t get this much training with experts that are known across the country for helping jails with inmates that die in custody,” Kyle said. “This is preventive maintenance for when it happens.”
According to McCotter, coming back to Daviess County was a good fit.
“The sheriff runs one of the most hospitable agencies I’ve worked with,” McCotter said. “They’re not just good people, but they bend over backwards not just to assist us but to the attendees here to be comfortable and to feel welcome. They create an environment where you are here to learn.”
Kyle was hoping to tour the jail at some point during the conference.
“This is a nice facility and should be proud of what you have down here,” Kyle said.
Harbstreit got the opportunity to send five of his staff to the seminar and those will continue the teaching with the entire jail staff. He said the seminar has been good to bring more visitors to Daviess County.
“I’m proud because they wanted to come back,” Harbstreit said.