Three hots and a cot in the Summit Green Mile
Editors note: Summit Daily News reporter Ashley Dickson is filing her reflections on the Citizens Police Academy each week to provide insight into what Summit County law-enforcement officers face each day out on the streets.SUMMIT COUNTY I begin my fourth week at the Citizens Police Academy with one of the most well rounded and fulfilling meals I have had all week, and Im surprised to find out this is the same food served in the Summit County Jail. Do you all have your sporks? Sheriff John Minor asks as he distributes some rather haggard-looking brown plastic containers. Wiping away the condensed steam from the lid of the container, I open it up to find roasted chicken, creamed potatoes, steamed vegetables, a piece of bread and a frosted slab of carrot cake. Wow most nights Im lucky if I can scrape together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and this meal is downright mouth watering. Over the sound of clamoring sporks, the class is introduced to jail division Capt. Erik Bourgerie, who explains that the food is used as a management tool in the jail. Inmates come in with the highest amount of privileges, Bourgerie said, adding that most inmates in the jail are awaiting trial and are not actually incarcerated criminals. If they screw up, then those privileges get taken away. And having good food three times a day is one of those privileges.For those inmates who do misbehave, they get to dine on something called the Nutraloaf, a disgusting brown brick made of potato flakes, beans, cubed bread and other food. Just hearing about it is enough to make anyone want to comply with orders. Next, it is off for a tour of the jail, and I feel a little awkward as our class of 20 is escorted through the narrow hallway between the cell blocks. Behind the shatter-resistant glass, inmates wearing different colored jumpsuits stare back at us with equal fascination. Most of the crimes committed in Summit County are cabin fever crimes, Bourgerie explains, which includes alcohol- and drug-related crimes as well as domestic-abuse cases. The jail averages 2,000 to 2,500 inmates a year, and jail guards have to be prepared for anything and everything as they monitor the inmates 24 hours a day.With only an hour left in class, the sheriff ushers us back to the class room, where District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and county court Judge Ed Cassias are waiting to field our questions about the courts system.It is kind of unusual to have all of us in the same room having a candid conversation, Minor said. Use this opportunity to ask anything you want.Im interested to hear what is on the minds of my classmates, and I sit back and listen as our two guest speakers explain the ins and outs of jury duty, plea bargains, reasonable doubt and overall crime in the county. The main crimes we see up here are drugs and theft, Hurlbert said. Then, of course, we have bar fights and, most recently, weve seen a rise in sexual assaults.Given the nature of my job, I am not naive to the fact that Summit County has had its share of violent crimes and petty theft. I often wonder if the people who view the county as a sleepy mountain town would change their tune if they got to see the weekly crime reports that come across my desk. Most of the work done by our local police, district attorney and county judge does not make the papers, and their daily efforts to keep the community safe go mostly unnoticed by those of us more preoccupied with snow reports. This weekend, our class is headed to the gun range for a firearms-training session. Im a little nervous because I consider myself to be more of a flower picker than a gunslinger, but Im ready to give it a try and see how well I can aim.
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