DeSoto County News visits the Hernando Detention Center

The DeSoto County Adult Detention Center in Hernando has been notified that it has been reaccredited with the American Corrections Association (ACA) and will officially receive its accreditation for the next three years in August in New Orleans. , Louisiana.

Director of Detention Services Chad Wicker holds up the sign that the prison is accredited. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

It’s a big move for the prison, according to director of detention services Chad Wicker, who runs a facility that employs 86 people, including medical staff, and has a potential capacity of 568 inmates.

“A lot of times we’re asked why we go through the accreditation process and I will answer that since we got accredited we haven’t had a trial yet,” Wicker said. “Since 2018, there have been no serious trials. This has saved taxpayers a lot of money in legal costs.

The ACA conducted an audit of the adult detention center during the week of February 21 through interviews with staff, a comprehensive tour of the prison, observation and review of records and records .

DeSoto County Jail received 100% compliance with mandatory standards and 99.04% compliance with non-mandatory standards.

DeSoto County is one of four prisons in Mississippi to achieve accreditation, which the Hernando facility first received in 2018.

The adult detention center had just completed its credentialing process when DeSoto County News was granted a tour of the facility by Wicker and we got to see the prison like few people who aren’t inmates do. .

DeSoto County Adult Detention Center.
(Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

DeSoto County Jail is a busy detention center. Wicker said that at the time of our visit the prison population was 470 inmates. As it is the only jail in DeSoto County, a constant stream of offenders are brought in and held in the jail.

“We treat more people here than anyone in the state,” Wicker pointed out. “We processed nearly 12,000 people here last year and it’s busier than any other prison in Mississippi. Our population of 470 is about the third largest in the state and our capacity is 568. »

Of that number, many are being held for violent crimes, a trend Wicker has seen grow since he started working there about 16 years ago.

“What I’ve seen is people coming to prison younger and committing more violent crimes,” he said. “We currently have 64 people in jail for murder. When I started working here, we had two. The population has grown and the county has grown.

One of the important areas that the prison has to deal with for every inmate is health. Detained prisoners usually do not come without a lot of health problems and it is essential to provide for their health needs while incarcerated.

“They are drug addicts, have high blood pressure, diabetes, just a range of things we have to do.” said Osier. “We employ eight nurses, two per shift. We have a doctor who works 12 hours a week and we have an RN (registered nurse) who works 40 hours a week. We provide it like a doctor’s office.

Wicker is quick to point out, however, that the DeSoto County Adult Detention Center has not had a COVID-19 inmate death since the pandemic began. He said it was a direct reflection on the prison staff.

“These guys (staff) came to work every day and put their lives on the line to serve the people of DeSoto County,” Wicker said. “I’m so thankful for what they did.”

Family members who wish to see detainees cannot do so in person at the prison. They can call by phone, which Wicker says happens about 80% of the time, or they can video chat through a connection to an offsite communications center in Hernando that family members can drive to.

Another means of communication with the outside is the mail, but no paper is touched by the inmate when receiving the message.

“You send your letter to a PO box,” Wicker said. “They get it and digitize it in digital form. An inmate sees it on the kiosk and he never has to touch the mail. They can also send electronic messages. We were among the first to do so. »

Detainees are seated awaiting their appearance before a judge via video.
(Bob Bakken/DeSoto County Jail)

Depending on the situation, circumstances and the judge’s preferences, court appearances can be in person in court or via video from jail.

In fact, technology has become an important tool in the operation of the prison, noted in particular by the red cubes that are placed everywhere. They help keep track of where an inmate is or has been inside the prison by scanning a wristband to the cube.

Inmates of a red cube device must scan access to and from areas of the prison to document where they are or have been. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

“Each inmate wears a wristband and staff will scan the wristband and then it will be documented,” Wicker explained. “The same with cell controls. For most people in the general population, it’s one hour. All of this is documented. It’s a great system, our inmate tracking system, or RFID.

The inmates’ daily routine includes breakfast at 6 a.m. and roll call at 8 a.m. Inmates can then watch TV, play games in their cell, face trial or make video appearances when they have their time. Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m.

Trustys begins the process of preparing the kitchen for lunch. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Inmates also have access to different programs, including evening religious services or educational programs, if they choose to participate.

Wicker encourages the programs because he wants the prison to be more than just a holding cell for the men and women incarcerated there.

“These people are good people and they shouldn’t let a bad mistake be the only thing in their lives,” Wicker said. “We have to find a way in society to break this cycle.”

Much of the food served at the prison is made up of leftovers donated by the Heartland Hands food pantry in Horn Lake, a partnership that has been going on for two years.

Snacks come from an inmate’s trust account into which family members can deposit. Inmates can use the money to buy around 300 different items, including cookies, crisps and other items.

“A bag of chips, cookies and coke is $10 and we sometimes sell 100 a day,” Wicker said. “A lot of our population is so transient that they’re not around to order big stuff. If you’re here one day, you can buy one and we’ll distribute it the next day. That way we don’t have to ask taxpayers to buy these things for them.

Surveillance of the cell area at the county jail. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Today’s adult detention center is approximately 100,000 square feet in size and was built in two phases. The original building was 60,000 square feet, followed by a 40,000 square foot addition.

Wicker said he benefited from the leadership of Sheriff Bill Rasco.

“He’s been kind of a mentor to me,” Wicker said. “He gave me my chance and I will remember that.”

Toiletries provided to inmates. Toilet paper rolls come without paper cores which could otherwise be used to block cell doors to hold them open.
(Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)
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