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Old 12-27-2012, 08:48 AM   #1
Gynn
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Small town jail

The setting for my WIP is a small town in the present day United States with a population of five thousand or less.

My questions are: what would a police station generally look like (on the inside) for a small town? Would there be a few cells? One big cage? Private cells? Some offices? What's the typical staff?

Thanks for any help!
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:16 AM   #2
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To might want to clarify if you're really talking about a jail, or just holding cells at a police station.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:53 AM   #3
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I lived in a town of 5000 in Iowa, and the police station was actually in the basement of the courthouse. The town was too small to have its own jail, and any perps picked up in its jurisdiction were sent to the county. I never saw the jail itself (thankfully!).
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gynn View Post
The setting for my WIP is a small town in the present day United States with a population of five thousand or less.

My questions are: what would a police station generally look like (on the inside) for a small town? Would there be a few cells? One big cage? Private cells? Some offices? What's the typical staff?

Thanks for any help!
Chris P's comment is valid, but I get the impression that you are interested in what the holdoing cells in a small town jail would look like.

I have seen quite a few small tone police stations (under 10,000 in population), and the cells look like what you could see on any number of TV shows what included such things. The cells in Andy of Mayberry was quite typical. A cage of steel bars about 10 by 10 with a cot or a steel framed bed; toilets are variable, some have crappers in the cells and others take the prisoners out for toilets. Some are separated from the office area, while others are just alone one wall. There are variations that depend on the age of the building. Newer police stations are more likely to have concrete partitions and a steel door with a barred window. You can make the cells however you like, or you could visit a nearby taown and see what they have.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:49 PM   #5
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Most LE agencies have some sort of facilities for holding persons in custody; holding cells, secure interview rooms. etc. They may or may not have plumbing (toilets/sinks) and benches or fixed cots (or the equivalent).

The key point is whether or not the incarcerated person is to be held (housed and fed) for an extended period of time (e.g.; overnight). Most agencies not having adequate facilities for overnight custody will transport the individual to the county jail, effectively transferring custody to the county Sheriff. The person in custody is then produced before a judge of a court of record at the earliest opportunity - usually the next day.
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:27 AM   #6
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Many (most) small towns around here have nothing. Once arrested, people are taken directly to the county seat, where the jail and sheriff's department are housed (as well as the county/district courthouse). We don't have a police department - the county sheriff has a small office here; otherwise everything is handled at the county level.
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:23 AM   #7
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My experience was long ago but in this particular small town the jail was an extra room in the fire station. It was quite large and held several double bunks. The food was terrible. Fortunately I was only an overnight guest.
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:37 AM   #8
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So much of this depends upon when the police station was built and what the budget was. Holding of prisoners can be anywhere from being cuffed to a chair to a full-blown cell.

The important thing to remember is that whenever you have someone in custody, that officer is responsible for the safety of that person. This means that for a small department, you want to dump the person in custody as rapidly as possible, because you've now got an officer tied down making sure the person in custody stays safe. And if you only have one officer on duty, you can imagine the problems.

The balance of the station can be either rather wide-open with a couple of offices, or a lot of small offices. Again, when the station was built and the budget are big in determining this. Ideally, you want a balance of places where officers can interchange ideas and privacy.

Staff depends upon budget and amount of time the jurisdiction is willing to pay for coverage. It may include a secretary. It may not. A department that has one officer on duty 24/7 will require a force of five officers. You need four officers to cover the 24/7, with the fifth officer providing manning when an officer is sick, on vacation, at training, or at court. However, you can gain one full-time officer equivalent by hiring two part-time officers, so for the five officer department, you might actually employ more people.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:35 PM   #9
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And, if your town is in a location where access to the county lock-up might be problematic at times, and you have cells, you probably want two cells, separated by a little more than an arm's length. Or three cells. So when you arrest both belligerant drunks in a bar fight, you don't have to house them together.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
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And, if your town is in a location where access to the county lock-up might be problematic at times, and you have cells, you probably want two cells, separated by a little more than an arm's length. Or three cells. So when you arrest both belligerant drunks in a bar fight, you don't have to house them together.

+1... And you can't put males with females, juveniles with adults, or (in most jurisdictions) pre-trial incarcerated prisoners with post-trial convicted prisoners (although that may happen more often than is desirable due to limited logistics and/or resources).
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frimble3
And, if your town is in a location where access to the county lock-up might be problematic at times, and you have cells, you probably want two cells, separated by a little more than an arm's length. Or three cells. So when you arrest both belligerant drunks in a bar fight, you don't have to house them together.
+1... And you can't put males with females, juveniles with adults, or (in most jurisdictions) pre-trial incarcerated prisoners with post-trial convicted prisoners (although that may happen more often than is desirable due to limited logistics and/or resources).
And violent with non-violent, and a whole lot more. And heaven help you if the prisoner has immediate medical needs which you ignore. Which is another reason why small departments are going to get rid of prisoners as fast as you can. And why a corrections officer and a police officer are two different beasts, although closely related.

One story I heard is about this police officer who starts to arrest a guy on a minor misdemeanor charge. The guy freaks, and has a massive coronary. This is on Friday evening of a long weekend. Officer goes with the ambulance to hospital. Officer gets to sit outside surgery all Friday night, before another officer can relieve him.

Booking has not been completed on the guy, since the police can't get anywhere near him. He's in ICU, and is not allowed into the patient's room. He can't be transferred to county custody, because the guy in charge of county is ducking the calls. And the whole thing is really stupid, until you think about the money.

Police department has to use up a crap load of their overtime budget (in a three man department) sitting at the hospital. The country jail doesn't have to pay overtime to cover the hospital. (Remember this is a long weekend. Many are on vacation.)

Then the hospital bill comes in. Which is the responsibility of the police department because the guy doesn't have health insurance. And since the county jail hasn't taken over, the county isn't responsible. A very big hospital bill. Into the six figures. A couple of rounds of CPR. Initial surgery and a followup surgery.

Finally on Tuesday, the police department gets a judge to grant PR (no cash) bail for the guy. (The bail bondsman wouldn't set bail because of the guy's condition and the fact that booking hadn't been completed.)

Net cost to the town was a lot of money. Police chief's comment was "Why couldn't the guy have waited until we dumped him on county." Not much they could do in this situation, but this is one reason why police departments want a real jail to take over quickly. They have more resources for taking care of people.

By the way, the guy died about a week later.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe
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