Dougherty County Jail Director Sheriff’s Col. John Ostrander spoke about the jail population, gangs and the methods used in jail management at the September Gang Task Force meeting noon Thursday.
ALBANY, Ga. -- With members of various gangs inhabiting the Dougherty County Jail, it is a challenge to supervise them, according to Dougherty County Jail Director Sheriff's Col. John Ostrander.
But, it's a challenge that is being met Ostrander said at the noon Thursday Gang Task Force monthly meeting.
"I started in the jail in 1989. It has been an unusually challenging and rewarding career and I wouldn't have it any other way," Ostrander said. "One challenge is managing a gang population. Jails and prisons are as much of a gang members lifestyle as are drugs and violence."
The culture runs deep in the community, Ostrander said. He remembered one woman suing the jail because she felt her sister was mistreated. According to Ostrander the woman said, "Those jailers didn't treat my sister right and when my children grow up and go to jail I want them treated better."
Although the jail gang influence runs deep, Ostrander said he has found strategies that manage all inmates, gang members included.
Ostrander named four strategies: Segregation, isolation, aggressive prosecution of crimes committed in jail and interruption of inmate internal and external communications.
The jail has three women's residential units. The majority are male and Ostrander divided them into six minimum security, two medium and one maximum. Inmates are allowed out of their two-inmate cells for a couple hours a day and they are only let out in small groups, not all at once.
Ostrander said he found this the best way to supervise the inmates, whether they are the one out of 10 inmates that belongs in one of 10 gangs.
There are no solitary confinement cells, he said. For isolation, an inmate is confined to a cell alone and not allowed out with a group as are the other inmates.
The use of the law as a way for strong prosecution of crimes in the jail is a key in Ostrander's plans. Inmates at the jail, and even jail staff members, face full prosecution of the law if they commit crimes, he said.
The jail has its own investigator, who works with the District Attorney's office, Ostrander said.
Communication between the housing units is difficult for inmates, Ostrander said. Mail gets delivered, but is read by authorities.
"All mail is opened and screened by trained staff," Ostrander said, "except mail from attorneys."
Inmate phone calls are recorded and are a great investigative technique for law enforcement, Ostrander said. In a couple weeks the jail is expected to have a system where the inmate will have to use a personal identification number to use a phone, making the calls even easier to monitor.