Saturday, January 4, 2014

NWH errs in jail breach story

Yesterday's story in the Northwest Herald about the security breach at the McHenry County Jail contained many errors. Those errors could have occurred only because false or bad information was given to the reporter. In other words, the reporter got sandbagged, to keep the McHenry County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) from looking worse that it does.

First of all, MCSD isn't investigating a security "snafu" (unless you know what SNAFU really stands for). If it is investigating anything, it is investigating a very important lapse in security. And maybe it shouldn't even be investigating itself. Maybe the fox is guarding the hen house.

The male inmate didn't "slide past" security officers. Picture two-three guards standing around, chatting about the Christmas holidays and travel, while the male inmate "slides past" in the shadows. Wrong!

The male inmate didn't sneak through an "unlocked" access door between the mens' unit and the womens' unit. The door was a secure door that was supposed to be kept closed and locked. A guard had gone through it and failed to close it tightly and confirm that it had locked and was secure. That's not an "unlocked" door.

Sheriff Nygren apparently told the reporter that the door was supposed to be used in emergencies (only). Was it really in regular use, contrary to Jail policies and procedures? Who was failing to train and supervise the guards? Where does the buck stop? Right on Nygren's big desk.

"The Sheriff's Office is modifying procedures 'to make it impossible to ever happen again,' Undersheriff Andy Zinke said." I'll bet there is nothing wrong with the "procedures".

The only way it will ever be impossible for that to happen again is to weld the door shut. How stupid does Zinke think the public is? And why is Zinke even quoted in an article about the Jail? Remember the flap when Nygren tried to say that Zinke was out of the loop as far as the Jail was concerned? It had to do with running for elected office and receiving Federal funds. The Hatch Act, as I recall.

And here is Zinke, right where we all knew he was. Right in the middle of the chain-of-command at MCSD, including the Jail. With Nygren hardly ever around, of course Zinke oversees the Jail!

What was the guard watching, that he didn't monitor that door's opening and closing when a jail guard passed through? If the door was for emergency use only, why didn't the monitor report the improper use to the supervisor immediately? My guess is that door was in regular use, and it was not for emergency use only.

Nygren said the door had to be slammed "or rechecked..." Had guards complained and asked for repairs or adjustments, so that the door would close and lock more easily? Wasn't there an alarm on the door to sound upon opening, especially if it was for emergencies only? If a guard passed through, the other guard who was monitoring the closed-circuit TV should hear an alarm and document the alarm and the passage of authorized personnel. What did he do when the alarm sounded again, when the male inmate "sneaked" through? Oh, there was no alarm on that door?

The reporter's story that the male inmate "... was locked in the women's side for 'about an hour' before another female inmate reported it to jail staff" is wrong. The story I got last week was that inmates complained, and 90 minutes passed before the guards acted.

"It was a mistake," Nygren said. "You learn from it, you create policies to keep it from happening again." Ho-hum....

Sorry, Keith, as Sheriff you were supposed to have policies in place to prevent this from happening in the first place. Remember how loudly chests at MCSD were thumped, when accreditation was granted by the American Correctional Association. Maybe MCSD needs to be placed on probation.

And, if you weren't paying attention to procedures, Keith, then Andy should have been.

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