Jail Hears Pleas of Visitors
By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO March 23, 2007 Visitors to the Sullivan County Jail have been getting a warm welcome this winter.
In December 2005, the Democrat printed the pleas of irate residents who’d been forced to wait in the cold when making a visit to the Sullivan County Jail.
At the time, just eight prisoners were allowed to meet with visitors at any one time during the jail’s visitation time. But when the doors opened, it was first-come, first-served. The folks on line to see the first eight prisoners got in.
The rest waited in the cold.
Youngsville resident Lucilla Calkin pondered at the time who the county thought were the real criminals.
Sheriff Michael Schiff, who was scheduled to take office a few weeks after the article was printed, vowed to look into the complaints. He was true to his word.
“Some people were with small children, and when the wind would blow it was brutal,” Schiff said. “The cost of building an enclosure large enough to keep everyone warm was prohibitive, plus we don’t have the room.”
Instead, Schiff and Jail Administrator Harold Smith Jr. made a few small adjustments.
Begun in November, a new program has allowed visitors to call ahead of time, making an appointment to visit an inmate. The simple solution has worked, Schiff said.
“It shocked me how well it works,” Smith said. “You don’t see anybody waiting out there anymore.
“Sometimes the simplest solution is the hardest to come up with,” he said with a laugh.
Calkin said she’d heard word from a neighbor who’d made a jail visit, and she was happy to see progress.
“It’s great to see a little common sense does prevail!” she noted.
Schiff said jail staff still tries to accommodate people who show up without an appointment, but they are now few and far between.
He’s also made some changes to the Sheriff’s Office Civil Division to aid the public, implementing a new schedule just this week.
“It was becoming common to see citizens running across Bushnell Avenue, trying to get through the door of the Civil Office before it closed at 5 p.m.,” Schiff said.
The civil division is now open from 8:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Jail visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday. The morning session hours are 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the afternoon session is 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To set up an appointment, call the jail at 794-7202, option 2. Visitors should show up 15 minutes prior to their appointment to be processed.