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Current Jail Structure “Not Safe”

By Staff | Jan 27, 2021

Dear Palo Alto County Residents,

I am currently an employee of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Dept. I work as a full-time jailer. I can’t even begin to tell you how bad this Jail is falling apart.

Our current structure is not safe for employees or inmates. In the past years we have squeaked by the state inspections. People say “those inmates don’t need comfy cells.” No they don’t. But they do need to be safe, just like the employees. We currently have 8 beds, 6 on the main floor for men and 2 cells for females up some creaky old stairs. I pray every time no one gets hurt going down. If we have no females, we will overflow the men upstairs to keep them off the floor (which is a big fire hazard).

The main floor units still have the old chain-driven doors that you hope never jam. It would cause an inmate to be stuck in a cell until we could get it fixed. Now imagine a fire? It takes several large keys to open all the doors. It scares the heck out of me to think that I would be responsible to get all these inmates out with keys that are different for every door. I don’t ever want that on my conscience.

I have seen inmates that are violent, out of their mind on drugs, and so drunk that they have no idea why they are being held. We have no way to separate the violent ones from the non-violent inmates. This causes a safety issue. By state law Felons have to be separated from misdemeanor inmates, a padded room for someone that may try to harm themself, drunk tanks for the ones coming down off the liquor and then we also have to separate transgender inmates. We do hold juveniles for placement in other facilities. They have to be kept separate from any inmate in our facility, right now they are held in the booking room until they can be transported. This ties up the area for any other book ins that may come in. We don’t have the luxury of having an officer here 24 hours a day. If we have a problem with a violent offender that is currently being housed with a non-violent offender, we have to wait for an officer to get to the jail to get the situation under control. By this time someone could seriously be hurt or killed.

Booking room, we have no safe place to be in this room. An inmate could easily get to the jailer before anyone could help you. There is nothing between you and the inmate. Then after they are booked in, they are walked through a common area by the kitchen to be placed in a cell. If they need to see a lawyer or be in a meeting with health officials, we have no safe place for these meetings.

So, I ask you to please vote on March 2, 2021. This new facility will not raise your taxes. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Sincerely,

(signed) Teresa Holdefer

Emmetsburg, IA