Wyo. jail does first ever full jail shakedown; finds no drugs, weapons
Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies swept the entire jail in a 7-hour operation because “things have gotten kind of lax in the jail”
By Samir Knox
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office did the first jail “shakedown” in the agency’s history on Wednesday.
Deputies, along with law enforcement officers from other agencies, swept the entire Laramie County jail in an operation that lasted more than seven hours.
Sheriff Brian Kozak said the operation, which the agency called a “shakedown,” was a success. He said it signals the beginning of several large changes his administration plans to make in the county.
“I think it is a great lead in to what we hope to achieve,” Kozak told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Thursday. "... We’re going to introduce some more programming, for example: drug addiction treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous (and) domestic violence classes. ... We’re teaching inmates what the expectations of society are, and we’re doing that here in the jail.”
Deputies will now have to search jail cells daily, LCSO announced Thursday. New jail policies will also impose stricter expectations on inmates. Those held at the Laramie County jail must now make their beds, keep their cells clean and follow other rules intended to keep order in the facility.
Undersheriff Chance Walkama said the agency eased requirements when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020.
“It just sets the tone, as far as going back to pre-COVID times,” Walkama told the WTE. “Things have gotten kind of lax in the jail. It’s just not safe to have that kind of operation. So, we initiated this search throughout all the pods, and then the sheriff and I went around and spoke to the inmates directly.”
The search was intended to find any contraband in the jail. To the surprise of LCSO officials, they found no drugs or weapons. Notably, deputies did find a makeshift tattoo gun and a rope an inmate had crafted out of a T-shirt.
The inmate with the rope was transported to a suicide watch and is getting mental health treatment.
“I think, of all things, that, itself, justified this to us,” Walkama said. “That search potentially saved somebody’s life. So, it was definitely well worth it.”
LCSO expected the K9 units the agency deployed to turn up some kind of drug item or paraphernalia. When the dogs found none, even after searching some cells for more than 10 minutes, Kozak was surprised.
“It was a great surprise, I’ve got to be honest with you,” Kozak said. “I suspected that we would find something, and we did not. So, I’m really thankful.”
To Walkama’s surprise, many inmates were thankful for the search. They received little pushback from people in the jail, he said.
“They welcomed it. It was an interesting response,” he said. “I didn’t expect that. They truly believe that those things add to their safety and their well-being. ... A lot of them told us how they appreciate the structure. Giving them that structure sometimes helps them be more successful when they’re out.”
Walkama said the ultimate goal of these new programs is to reduce recidivism.
The first meeting for the shakedown began at noon Wednesday, and the agency finished the inspection around 7:30 p.m. Wyoming Department of Corrections officials, Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers and Platte County Sheriff’s deputies came to assist with the shakedown. Between those agencies and LCSO, 52 people and nine K9 units worked on the operation.
While LCSO cannot call on that amount of manpower every day, Kozak said that, going forward, deputies will be ready to perform jail shakedowns regularly.
Samir Knox is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice and public safety reporter. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 307-633-3152. Follow him on Twitter at @bySamirKnox.
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