Jodi Arias, Michael Benge, A Court Stenographer, And…Boiled Eggs?

What do Jodi Arias, Drew Peterson, and Scott Peterson all have in common? Well, besides committing murder, that is.

Each of the three convicted killers—Arias and the two Peterson’s, were all jail inmates at the start of their high-profile murder trials, which means there was a lot of activity going on behind the scenes that the public never saw. For example, jail staff had to be sure the defendants were up, fed, and ready to go in time to be at the courthouse long before the judges entered the courtroom.

Since many inmates heading out for trial normally leave the jail prior to regular mealtimes, they’re often provided a brown bag breakfast consisting of two boiled eggs, two slices of bread, and a carton of juice (varies from facility to facility).

Inmate transport vehicle

Prisoners are normally transported to the courthouses in secure transport vehicles. However, some courthouses and jails are connected via an underground hallway, which allows jail transport staff to walk the shackled prisoners to the courthouse holding cells.

Courthouse holding cells

Jail inmates wait in holding cells until their cases are called. During long recesses, such as lunchtime, the prisoners are returned to the holding cell until the trial resumes. Again, the noon meal is usually a bag lunch, such as two cheese sandwiches, an apple, and a carton of juice.

The responsibility of protecting county courtrooms, judges, jury members, court employees, witnesses, and all citizens who attend court hearings and trials, falls on the shoulders of the county sheriff.

The sheriff is also responsible for transporting jail inmates to and from their court appearances, and for guarding the prisoners while they’re inside the courthouse.

US Marshals have the responsibility of providing security and prisoner transport for federal courts.

Sheriffs deputies employed as court security officers undergo special training related to working in a court environment. Depending on an individual sheriff’s policy, court security officers may, or may not, be certified police officers.

The sergeant (you can tell he’s a sergeant by the three stripes on his sleeve and collar pin) in the above photograph is in charge of all courtroom security operations. In addition to supervising the deputies working in the various courtrooms, he’s responsible for delivering each prisoner to the correct courtroom on time.

Closed circuit cameras in each courtroom and other strategic locations, project real-time images to the security office. Judges also have panic buttons beneath their benches. A press of the button sends an emergency signal to the security office, and to police dispatchers and the nearby sheriffs office.

Deputies gather chains in preparation of transporting prisoners back to jail.

Court security officers must learn to use various screening devices, such as hand-held metal detecting wands and x-ray equipment.

Monitors for x-ray equipment.

Officer stationed at x-ray machine and walk-through metal detector.

Typical courtroom

Jury box

Jury room (deliberations)

Court reporter’s stenotype machine. Fun facts – Court reporters spell out words phonetically instead of typing each word, letter by letter. The machines they use cost anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000.

Death penalty case files stored under lock and key in county clerk’s office. For example, the third (middle) row of boxes consists of four cartons containing the entire case file for Michael Benge. Benge was convicted and sentenced to death for using a metal pipe to beat his girlfriend, Judith Gabbard, to death. After killing her, Benge weighted Gabbard’s body with concrete before tossing her in the Miami River. The car he’d driven to the river had become stuck in the mud, so Benge then swam across the river where he walked to a friend’s house.

Michael Benge was executed in 2012. His final meal request included a large chef salad, barbecue baby back ribs, two cans of salted cashews and two bottles of iced tea.

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Courtroom Security: Behind Closed Doors

The responsibility of protecting county courtrooms, judges, jury members, court employees, witnesses, and all citizens who attend court hearings and trials, falls on the shoulders of the county sheriff. The sheriff is also responsible for transporting jail inmates to and from their court appearances, and for guarding the prisoners while they’re inside the courthouse.

US Marshals have the responsibility of providing security and prisoner transport for federal courts.

Sheriffs deputies employed as court security officers undergo special training related to working in a court environment. However, depending on an individual sheriff’s policy, court security officers may, or may not, be certified police officers.

The sergeant in the above photograph (you can tell he’s a sergeant by the three stripes on his sleeve and collar insignia) is in charge of all courtroom security operations. In addition to supervising the deputies working in the various courtrooms, he’s responsible for delivering each prisoner to the correct courtroom on time.

Closed circuit cameras in each courtroom and other strategic locations, project real-time images to the security office. Judges also have panic buttons beneath their benches. A press of the button sends an emergency signal to the security office, and to police dispatchers and the nearby sheriffs office.

Deputies gather chains in preparation of transporting prisoners back to jail.

Court security officers must learn to use various screening devices, such as hand-held metal detecting wands and x-ray equipment.

Monitors for x-ray equipment.

Officer stationed at x-ray machine and walk-through metal detector.

Typical courtroom

Jury box

Prisoner holding cell in court basement near the security office. Prisoners are brought to the courthouse where they’ll wait in these cells until their case is called. When their trial is complete prisoners return to the holding cells until deputies transport them back to jail.

*Remember, individual agency policies, rules, and procedures may vary.

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Please Pass The Peas. But Hold The Handcuffs

While many police and sheriff’s departments face layoffs and budget cuts, Ellis County, Texas Sheriff Johnny Brown has decided to be creative when it comes to feeding the inmates housed in his jail.

Sheriff Johnny Brown (on right) and Sgt. Bobby Cooper

No more canned peas, corn, or store-bought onions for his prisoners. No sir. It’s fresh vegetables or nothing. That’s right, Sheriff Brown decided to break ground on the back forty (actually, it’s more like three acres at the old jail farm) using inmate labor for the tilling, planting, and harvesting.

Sgt. Cooper is in charge of overseeing the farm operation

Each morning, a group of non-violent inmates stand in line to be shackled and transported the three miles to the farm where they put in a full day working the 188 rows of vegetables. Sheriff Brown hopes to save the taxpayers of his jurisdiction a lot of money by growing the crops. And, as a bonus, the inmates learn as they work. They’re also tired at the end of the day (less trouble), and the food they’ll consume after harvest will be much better for them than canned produce. Let’s face it, jail food is usually horrible.

An inmate examines English peas prior to planting

Planting peas


To further save money, Sheriff Brown even collects rainwater runoff from the roof at the jail.

The water is funneled into barrels and is then transported to the farm to water the gardens.

WFAA TV photos

Sheriff B.J. Barnes

*Jail farms are not a new concept. In fact, Guilford County N.C. Sheriff B.J. Barnes operates a massive prison farm—the only one in the state of North Carolina—consisting of 806 acres that’s manned by 134 inmates. Inmates even built the original dormitory at the farm using rocks found on the grounds.

Those of you who attended the 2010 Writers’ Police Academy will remember Sheriff Barnes from the Sunday debriefing panel. He was also responsible for most of the police equipment you toured and visited on Friday.

And, it was Sheriff Barnes’ team who provided the live demonstration of the school shooting/hostage situation.

This year, Sheriff Barnes has graciously offered to allow attendees of the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy an opportunity to tour the county jail. Ride-a-long’s with Guilford County deputies will also be offered as part of the WPA program.

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is open. Reserve your spot today. Space is limited!

 

 

 

 

 

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Deputy Sheriffs: They’re Just Cops, Right?

Most of us had our first real look at a sheriff’s office back in 1960 when Andy Taylor and his fearless deputy, Barney Fife, patrolled the roads in and around Mayberry, N.C.

Television took us inside the Mayberry jail, the courthouse, and it even allowed us to ride in the county patrol car. And for many people, Andy Taylor’s Sheriff’s Office was the standard. The things Andy did, well, that’s what a sheriff was supposed to do—fight crime, run the jail, provide security for the court, and serve the people of the community.

So let’s take a look at a real-life, modern day sheriff and his office to see how things differ from the fictional Mayberry department. First, like Andy, a sheriff is only one person, which means they’ll need help to fulfill their duties. So deputies are appointed, not hired, to help with the workload. For example, the Clark County, Ohio sheriff’s office is comprised of the Sheriff (Gene Kelly – pictured above), one Chief Deputy, one Major, four Lieutenants, seventeen Sergeants, one-hundred-nine Deputies and thirty four civilian support staff.

When we see a sheriff’s car rolling along the highways and streets, most people assume the driver is a cop just like any other cop—an officer who wears a gun and answers calls doled out by a 911 dispatcher. Well, that’s partly true. They do answer calls. BUT, a deputy’s job is much more than just arresting people and putting them in jail.

Sure, we know that sheriff’s are in charge of the county jails. And we’re well aware that they serve civil process, such as jury summons, lien notices, foreclosures, and evictions. We also know that a sheriff assigns deputies to protect the courts, judges, and to supervise prisoners. But did you know that the duties of sheriffs and deputies may also include…

In the above photo, Sheriff Kelly is presiding over a sheriff’s sale. A sheriff’s sale is basically an auction to dispose of/liquidate property in which a mortgage owner has defaulted.

Operating mobile crime labs and investigative services.

Investigation of major crime scenes.

Community services, such as safety programs for citizens with special needs. One such program includes the ability to locate missing and/or lost persons through the use of tracking devices.

A person with special needs wears a wrist band with a built-in transmitter. Deputies equipped with specially designed receivers and antennas can then quickly track the person and return them to safety.

Housing prisoners from other jurisdictions whose facilities are overcrowded.

And, some locales may not have jail facilities at all and must rely on nearby sheriff’s offices for the safekeeping of their prisoners until trial.

Not all deputy sheriffs are police officers. Some are certified to work in the jail. Some are court security officers, and others have the sole duty of serving civil process.

Some deputies still unlock car doors for the unfortunate people who somehow manage to lock the keys inside their vehicles.

Deputies often organize and supervise search and rescue teams.

Some deputy sheriffs are cross-trained to work a variety of jobs within the department, such as patrol, jail, inmate transport, court security, etc.

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Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is now open.

Join us for a weekend of training at a real police academy with real police academy instructors and equipment.

It’s a blast!

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