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Sheriff works to combat trafficking

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

In an effort to crack down on trafficking at the jail, Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly is implementing new procedures and weighing his options of third-party vendors who are tasked with preparing and serving food for inmates.

“We are held to providing food services to our inmates, and the trend of the future is to bring in third-party vendors and contract their services,” Kelly said. “We know the price point for the meals and what is required through the Department of Corrections. We stay ahead of that and give them meals that are worth their while to serve. Using the third-party contracts is a great way to go. It actually saves the community money in not having full-time employees preparing that food, even with the assistance of inmate workers. It is cost-effective to do that.

“With that though, you do have the risk of having items trafficked to the inmates that are working or into the facility itself,” he added. “We have to take a stronger stance on making sure that doesn’t happen in the future. With that, we are bringing security measures that are going to inhibit the trafficking of anything illegal or anything that shouldn’t be there.”

Kelly says that since becoming Sheriff in January, his staff did implement security measures including the banning of baggage and cell phones of those who are contracted from outside to work within the facility.

“We do have to realize that they are not inmates,” Kelly said. “They are workers that come here, and their expectation is to go to work. So, there is no true searches as you would do on an inmate. We have to take for granted that they wouldn’t be concealing something on their body or under their clothes. So, we have to understand that there is still a possibility, even with the greatest employee, that something like that can happen.

“With that, we brought in some other countermeasures that are going to assist us with random searches, the open-air sniff with our K9 officers and also, in the future, using a body scanner that would detect any material that would be brought in,” he added.

Aramark currently handles food service within the jail, but Kelly says he is working with them on ways they can help defend against employees trafficking materials both into and out of the jail. He is also looking at the possibility of signing a different company to handle food services, or even hiring his own employees for the kitchen staff as they had done in the past at the jail.

“Aramark is working with us to try to find better safety measures to prevent things from being trafficked into the facility,” Kelly said. “Some of that has to do with background checks, the process of the Sheriff’s office participating a lot more in the screening and hiring process. Chief Deputy (Todd) Lappin has already put together some guidelines that are going to be held to on any hiring of employees.

“We have been talking at great lengths with Aramark about the issues at hand, and they are working with us with finding an answer,” he added. “So we appreciate that. But, also, for budgetary reasons, it is not bad to shop around and find quality companies that provide better services at the same or lower costs. That is always the goal – to provide our inmates quality food and quality workers.”

According to Kelly, Aramark’s contract with the Clinton County Jail has expired, and they are currently in negotiations.