‘Great place to work:’ Eagle County jail wants to hire a few good hands
November 3, 2017
EAGLE — Stroll through the front door of the Eagle County jail, and you immediately notice two things.
1. It's quiet.
2. It's cleaner than your grandma's house.
"We're proud of that. It's not only good for the inmates, but also the staff. It makes people want to work here. When they do work here, they become part of our team. We're trying to generate tenured employees," said Sgt. Greg Van Wyk, with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.
Van Wyk is looking for a few good people. You need a high school diploma, not necessarily a college degree, it pays more than $50,000 and includes the county's benefits package.
Trying to staff up
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The Sheriff's Office is asking for four new detention deputies in Eagle County's 2018 budget. If they're approved, then the Sheriff's Office still won't be back to pre-recession staffing levels, but they'll be able to reopen the direct supervision section. Budget cuts in 2009 forced job cuts that then forced the sheriff's office to shutter their new director supervision section — sort of a minimum security section where a couple of deputies can keep an eye on up to 40 inmates — as long as they behave themselves. If they don't, then they're demoted to maximum security and have to earn their way back.
Pay here, or pay there
While the money for the four new deputies works its way through the county's budgetary system, that direct supervision section remains closed, as it has since 2009. That means Eagle County has to house inmates in other jails.
That costs $45 per day, per prisoner. At an average of 34 prisoners most days, that's around $575,000 a year, more or less, depending on how many prisoners are farmed out at one time.
Work makes the time pass
Inmates do most of the work around the jail. They clean, paint and polish the floors, they help cook the meals and do the laundry. And then, if seeing is believing, they clean and polish the floors some more.
If they do it right, and they do, then they get some time off their sentences, said Undersheriff Mike McWilliam. Jail is better than it used to be, but it's still jail.
Inmates have access to Lexus Nexis, the legal database. When they're not doing that, there are stacks of books from the library. Paperback, no hardbacks, and you cannot donate books yourself.
It's not hard to believe, but people sometimes try to smuggle contraband into the jail, McWilliams said.
Great place to work
It's a great place to work, Van Wyk said, but like most jails, they have their share of issues.
There was a string of suicide attempts last year, however they were all by the same person.
Mental health professionals come through a few times a week. Inmates get video sessions. A medical professional is on staff to take care of them.
Too often, they're required to hold people until space can be found in a mental health hospital.
"These people should not be in jail," Van Wyk said.
But they are, and Van Wyk needs to hire some people to look after them.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.