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Wade defiant in face of federal orders to upgrade jail

May 01, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade said Wednesday a U.S. Justice Department report alleging constitutionally deficient conditions at the Washington County Detention Center was a sickening example of liberal bureaucrats protecting criminals, not taxpayers.

"I think they can go take a hike," Wade said.

"We're not running a country club or a health spa. We're running a jail," he said.

The nine page letter issued April 18 lists deficiencies in suicide prevention, medical care, opportunities for outdoor exercise, hygiene, sanitation in female housing, and access to courts and law books. The letter gives the county 49 days to address the deficiencies or risk a lawsuit.

"I think the average citizen doesn't really care about allegations like that...I think liberal justice officials who whine about wanting health care clinics and outside exercise for criminals are just completely out of touch with reality.

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"We can't provide 24-hour observation for people who may be suicidal. I mean, if they are going to do it, they are going to do it."

Wade also criticized a recommendation to create a chronic care clinic for HIV-infected inmates and provide a more comprehensive law library.

"If they want health care clinics and law libraries, let them come up and pay for it," he said.

"I think we have a wonderful jail down there and I'm going to fight before we spend any more money. People are tired of throwing money at criminals." Wade said the commissioners plan to spend $1 million more on the jail next year.

On the recommendation that inmates receive regular outdoor exercise, Wade said inmates wanting exercise should be given a lawn mower or a weed-whacker and cut grass along the highway.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said the county should take the letter seriously but he questioned the recommendations.

"I guess you can go through the jail and nitpick it to pieces," Bowers said. "This is indicative of Big Brother coming down and looking at a lot of little things that they would like to see, but are they practical? I think we need to look at what can we do versus what they would like to see.

"I'm not so sure a person on the outside of the detention center gets the kind of services they are requiring."

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday he wasn't worried about the possibility of a lawsuit. "I know (Sheriff Charles Mades) is running a first-class facility out there," Snook said.

Snook said he felt the commissioners were addressing needs at the jail by planning to hire more correctional officers.

The commissioners have tentatively approved hiring 12 new correctional officers for the jail, 10 fewer than requested by Mades.

Mades said Tuesday that most of the deficiencies listed in the report have been addressed.

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