Innovative Ada County Domestic Violence Court profiled on Boise State Public Radio

Did you know Ada County is home to one of only three “mentor” Domestic Violence Courts nationwide?

The U.S. Department of Justice selected Ada County’s Domestic Violence Court last year to be model for similar courts across the country. That means 4th District Magistrate Judges Carolyn Minder and James Cawthon — along with their staffs and members of Ada County Misdemeanor Probation — have been sharing advice and “best practices” information with Domestic Violence courts all over the U.S. for more than a year.

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women says Ada County’s example to other courts plays a “vital role.”

“Successful domestic violence courts process cases more efficiently, increase offender compliance, impose enhanced penalties, and achieve higher rates of conviction. These courts require training and support, which is particularly effective when provided by peers.”

Samantha Wright of Boise State Public Radio (KBSX 91.5 News) recently spent some time getting to know the people who run and participate in Ada County Domestic Violence Court. Check out that story here.


ACSO is now using on-body cameras

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is now using on-body cameras to document deputies’ interactions with the public – making it the first law enforcement agency in Ada County to adopt the technology.

The cameras provide the ACSO with the very best information for investigations and training, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney said.

“Why not collect as much information as we can to do our jobs better? This system allows us to do that,” Raney said. “In-car or “dashcam” video systems are outdated. Having cameras on our deputies will give us the most complete view of interactions between them and members of the community. We believe the public expects us to know exactly what is happening on the streets. Now we have that ability.”

Five deputies were outfitted with Taser Axon body cameras Friday. More deputies will be outfitted with the cameras over the next year, in groups of five. By the end of the rollout, 70 deputies will have the cameras.

Not all interaction with the public will be captured. Deputies will tape law enforcement activity like vehicle pursuits, traffic stops, investigative contacts, use of force situations, and crimes in progress.

Deputies will not tape interaction with crime victims or cooperative witnesses. This guideline generally does not apply to domestic violence cases.

They won’t tape interactions with confidential informants, undercover officers, victim witness coordinators, or prosecutors.

Deputies wear the camera on their uniforms. To start audio and video recording, they just push a button on the front. Tapping the button twice turns the camera and microphone off.

Deputies will download all videos recorded at the end of each shift. The videos are stored on servers maintained by Taser but are available to deputies and investigators over the internet.

All the video is secure, only accessible by members of the ACSO or Ada County Prosecutors.

New Maximum Security Unit at the Ada County Jail

Ten years ago we looked to the future and knew that our jail population would likely expand as the number of people in Ada County grew — and the impact would be most significant in our higher-security jail population. 10372894_756911354331137_1058403528566446372_o

The reason why is we work to identify people who are charged with crimes but can be safely released into the community so they can work, pay rent, and take care of their families while their criminal cases go through the court system.

That leaves us with a population of higher-risk inmates at the jail, many of whom were housed in areas built in 1977 that weren’t designed for more violent inmates.

To prepare for this, the Ada County Board of Commissioners saved funds over the last decade to pay for the $5.2 million addition to the jail — the new Maximum Security Unit (MSU). The new pod can house up to 88 of the most violent and dangerous inmates or ones that need higher security, like sex offenders.

Work crews completed construction on the MSU in late 2013, and finishing touches were done earlier this year. Our first group of high-risk inmates were moved in last weekend. As of Thursday, we had 50 inmates in the new unit.

The MSU has 44 cells, and each cell can hold two inmates. The pod is specifically designed for maximum security, with a semi-circle design splitting the cells up into three sections.

It has a control room on top where jail employees can see into all three sections and monitor video feeds.

There are 15 cells for “Class One” inmates, who pose a violent security threat to our staff. There are 15 cells for “Class Two” inmates who pose a violent security threat to other inmates. The third section of 14 cells are for inmates who need higher security.

10390142_756936037662002_7994490333450757833_nThe MSU has two common areas, which have a TV and a Telmate communication kiosk for internet visits.

Class One inmates, who have the highest security concerns, are generally kept one per cell.

Each inmate gets to leave their cell for an hour a day for the common area or an outdoor recreation cell. Cellmates can go out to the common area together but that’s it — there is no other physical interaction between inmates in the MSU.

Meals are served through slots. If any inmates need to be moved in or out of the unit, they are in hand and leg restraints.

The security features in MSU allows for the movement of inmates between their cells and the common area without having to physically interact with deputies — unless the inmates misbehave.

Deputies walk through the MSU every 30 minutes for security checks. If needed, the jail Special Response Team (think SWAT for the jail) can respond in moments.  1508569_756936014328671_3451556187535339901_n

The addition of the MSU is a much-needed security upgrade that makes our jail safer for inmates and staff. We hope to see a reduction in violent incidents between inmates and with staff in the months to come.