Local Jail Summits

My father was the long-time consulting pharmacist for the SD State Penitentiary who first instilled in me the importance of trainings for corrections officers. He regularly taught the state’s corrections officers how to identify the signs of inmates ingesting or abusing alcohol/drugs and then worked with other medical providers to teach their team how to come to their aid. He then turned that expertise on me by warning me as a teenager that I would never get away with using alcohol or any substances while growing up under his roof. I didn’t put his expertise to the test—I swear!

Proper training for corrections officers is of paramount importance as they deal directly with the people going through the criminal justice system who have the most severe and often hidden challenges. These challenges can stem from serious medical or mental health disorders, alcohol/drug addictions, and other emotional trauma from a variety of sources. These challenges can be extremely difficult to identify and even more difficult to address for medical experts, let alone for anyone else. Society sets lofty expectations for corrections officers to act like medical and mental health professionals while also performing their numerous other duties. Hundreds of jail visits with my incarcerated clients taught me that almost all corrections officers across the state truly care about their inmates’ welfare, but some of them lack the proper resources.

The relative lack of resources is a concern for every local jail in South Dakota, especially for those in more rural areas. It is imperative that these facilities receive the necessary resources from all levels of government so they can meet these high expectations. Corrections officers need the proper facilities, the proper equipment, and the proper training to utilize the latest technology while employing the latest best practices. Municipal law enforcement are another key component as they are often the first step in this entire process. The courts also play a vital role in determining who will be an inmate and for how long. The SD Unified Judicial System has been instrumental in creating specialized courts and diversion programs to develop innovations and expertise to more effectively help offenders with common challenges. The coordination and innovation among South Dakota’s public agencies has been very extensive and very encouraging overall. We all need to keep striving to achieve even greater results.

As you know, the SDPAA and its service provider team are the best resource to provide trainings for any issues facing local governments in South Dakota. The SDPAA Board of Directors is committed to collaborate, sponsor, promote, and provide innovative approaches for delivering these services for their fellow Members. For law enforcement related topics, the SDPAA works with the SD Police Chiefs Association and the SD Sheriffs’ Association to identify and then sponsor trainings on a host of topics for their respective memberships. As your fellow public servants the SDPAA Board members can sympathize and empathize with your challenges in any area. For the area of law enforcement, SDPAA Board member Mike Wiese has been a police reserve officer the last eighteen years for the City of Aberdeen and is a veteran County Commissioner for Brown County which operates a local jail.

The SDPAA recently created a Local Jail Summit to provide quarterly trainings and updates to all corrections officers working for its Members who operate local jails. These Summits will also foster collaboration among most of the local jails in South Dakota as most of them are SDPAA Members. The first session in December was attended by about 50 corrections and other law enforcement officers across the state. Participants discussed the challenges and experts presented on the best methods of identifying latent mental and medical health issues for incoming inmates.

The SDPAA engages the expertise of Safety Benefits, Inc. (SBI) and the Legal Liability & Risk Management Institute (LLRMI), whose teams of highly experienced former law enforcement officers and legal experts have worked with the SDPAA to develop twelve model law enforcement policies for its Members. Future SDPAA Local Jail Summits will focus on the correctional applications of these model policies and related topics with the goal of addressing all twelve polices on a three-year rotation. We are excited to provide this new opportunity to our Members!

The SDPAA Local Jail Summits are a recent addition to the countless hours of trainings on hundreds of topics that are already available to SDPAA Members. Most SDPAA Members use the SDPAA as their sole training resource through the SDPAA’s loss control vendor, SBI. SBI is also able to conduct on-site loss-control surveys to help Members identify other possible issues for future trainings or for necessary equipment or facilities upgrades. SDPAA Members’ local jail surveys are coordinated by SBI team member Matt Petersen who honorably served as a SD Deputy Sheriff/Corrections Officer for over two decades. The SDPAA’s “regular menu” of law enforcement trainings are coordinated by SBI team member Jeff Lanning who honorably served for over twenty-five years as a SD Highway Patrol Officer and Deputy Sheriff. They have walked many miles in your shoes and can help guide your way.

No private insurer could provide your public entity with these services. No private insurer would be governed by a board comprised of your fellow public servants who can truly appreciate your unique issues as a public entity. Only the SDPAA provides the coverages and the tools for your public entity to effectively prioritize and address any issues facing local governments in SD.

If your public entity is not a Member of the SDPAA, please contact the SDPAA at 800-658-3633 option 2 or by email at sdpaa@sdmunicipalleague.org to inquire about all the services available to SDPAA Members.