The Downtown Detention Center in Denver has been open and operating for 6 years now and it was supposed to be safer and more efficient than the previous facilities to but according to the staff working there, things don’t seem to be safer or more efficient than before. In fact many Deputies who are familiar with the way the jails operated prior 2010 say that the previous system operated better in regards to safety and efficiency. The fact that Deputies feel this way raises the question of how it could be that a newer more modern facility that is designed to house twice as many inmates than was previously possible could be less safe and less efficient? The clear, simple, and obvious answer to this question can only be bad leadership.
While it is true the facility is dangerously overcrowded, has design flaws, and the original plan for staffing it has been shown to be ridiculous in its woeful inadequacy; better leadership would have found solutions to at least mitigate these conditions. It is well understood by professional, capable, and competent security and safety leaders with experience in managing jails that overcrowding is a dangerous condition that puts staff, inmates, and the community at risk. Especially long term overcrowding, and the Downtown Detention Center has been consistently overcrowded for at least 2 years. Yet the Manager of Safety and the agency leadership seem to have no viable plan to address the problem? The FOP has been trying to get them to consider using the old PADF which is only 1 block away and is still in its previous configuration of a high security, single cell, 200 bed jail facility. They won’t even consider it and they don’t seem too motivated to use building 20 (despite all the work to get it ready) at the County Jail either? It is well known the DSD management can’t make any operational decision without the permission of the Manager of Safety so unless the most unqualified person among the decision makers agrees, then it just can’t happen.
It is true that a year ago the Manager of Safety decreed that 100 new Deputies would be hired to address the long standing staffing shortages, this looks to have created another problem as trying to do proper and appropriate processing of applicants takes time to do a thorough job of it. The result was jerking applicants and recruitment staff through the proverbial “knothole” in a rush to fall 20 short of the goal anyway. This wouldn’t have been necessary if the Administration had listened three years ago to requests for additional staff instead of ignoring a proposal that would have continued to hire academy classes of 30 three times a year. That plan would have kept better pace with attrition of Deputies while allowing for professional and thorough applicant processing. Bad leadership often misses the boat on a good solution, especially when the decision maker does not know the profession of those they are supposed to be leading. This also happens when you don’t respect the people who are doing the job.
What is it going to take for a real solution that addresses the dangerous overcrowding of the downtown jail? It may be a tragic event that cost the city a lot of money or casts a negative light on the Administration? Maybe not even then if there is a convenient scapegoat? DSD Management might want to reconsider how safe is it really, to go along to get along? Of course any real leader wouldn’t be concerned about that in the first place.