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Jails: An ACA Reader, American Correctional Association, Alexandria, Va., 2011, 233 pp.

Jails, more than other agencies, illustrate the fast revolving door of our criminal justice system. Jails are responsible for handling all types of arrestees, many under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The commitments run the gamut from a first-time arrestee to sophisticated violent parole violators. Adding to the complexity of jail operations are demands from the increasing numbers of inmates with serious mental illness. On page 184, Miami-Dade Judge Steven Leifman describes their jail as "the largest psychiatric warehouse in the state of Florida." The challenge of working in jails and managing them are onerous. Jails serve as a gateway back to the community or to prison. Furthermore, jails do not enjoy the prestigious status that other criminal justice agencies have.


With those challenges come opportunities to excel, and Jails: An ACA Reader, is a superb playbook. This short and precise reader outlines a variety of low-cost and timely programs for jails of all sizes to improve their operations. The book includes 29 essays in these 10 chapters:

* Training and Management Issues for Jails;

* Twenty-First Century Jail Issues;

* A Look at a Successful Jail;

* Jail Technology;

* Jail Security;

* Jail Health Care;

* Jail Mental Health Care;

* Aging in Jail;

* Reentry; and

* Jails of the Future.

These essays were written by a diverse selection of experienced and credible professionals. Many of these chapters were previously published in other American Correctional Association periodicals.

The wide variety of programs described in this reader that are innovative, low-cost and easy-to-implement is impressive. Examples include programs for:

* Incarcerated military veterans;

* Service learning (college and jail partnership);

* Special management units (administrative/disciplinary segregation);

* Methods of managing contagious diseases in the jail setting;

* The use of doulas (birth attendant) for inmates in labor;

* Flu vaccination;

* Aging correctional populations; and

* Reentry programs.

Robert Eskind's five-page chapter titled, "Philadelphia Prisons Go Green: Solar Hot Water System Installed in Philadelphia Prisons," is a primer on the value of embracing renewable energy while significantly reducing taxpayer expenditures for utilities. He also references composting food waste, energy-efficient lighting and movement sensors that activate lighting. Spending a little to save a lot makes sense in these economic times. If those "green" innovations were possible in Philadelphia's jails, they can be successful anywhere.

Jeffrey A. Schwartz's essay, "Reducing Exposure in Use-of-Force Litigation," includes a straightforward must-read section on the insidious "code of silence" and the need to replace it with "a commitment to professionalism and integrity." Schwartz also offers a useful eight-point list for decreasing legal exposure. Implementing these common sense measures could save a jail millions of dollars in legal judgments.

This book has value for introductory college courses, and the 11 photographs in section three provide a look at components found in all jails. This reader also has value for experienced administrators who can use the topics as a checklist to ensure that their jails are operating at optimum efficiency and effectiveness.

For the next edition of this book, I recommend that section five, Jail Security, be renamed Jail Operations. I further suggest that this section be supplemented with additional information on the constitutional requirements of operating jails. Those additions should address inmate supervision standards, suicide prevention and a jail's ongoing obligation to provide medical care, including safe drug and alcohol withdrawal.

In 1977, Judge William Webster wrote the following in an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, "Solutions to tough problems are not found in repression of ideas." Jails: An ACA Reader, is an inexpensive and refreshing book that offers innovative ideas to improve a jail's operation and efficiency.

Joel Goodman formerly worked inside St. Louis County Jail and has experience with the Missouri Department of Corrections. He retired in 2008 after 31 years with the Bureau of Prisons and now does litigation consulting from his home in Colorado. He can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:'Jails: An ACA Reader'
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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