Lawyer seeks more CO training at Ark. county jail

"It doesn't matter how nice the facility is if the people who run the facility don't know how to properly operate it," said Derick Allison


By Alex Gladden
Times Record
        
OZARK, Ark. — A man is dead, at least two inmates were beaten and a sheriff is in jail. But the Franklin County jail has yet to up its training for detention officers.

Franklin County officials said they solved much of the problem when they built a new $8 million jail with 104 beds.

"Getting the new detention center is a great thing for Franklin County. Our other detention center was outdated and too small, overcrowded at times," County Judge Rickey Bowman said.

The modern facility is a far cry from the 30-bed jail, where Cody Franklin died in 2016 after being tased at least eight times, and former Sheriff Anthony Boen was convicted of beating two inmates.

No one was ever prosecuted in connection with Franklin's death, but his family is suing the county, the city of Ozark and three officers who they believe are responsible.

In July, a jury found Boen guilty of attacking two inmates. He is in jail and awaiting sentencing.

The old jail, where these incidents occurred, constantly faced overcrowding issues.

"The inmates were on top of each other 24/7," said Capt. Jimmy Dorney of the former jail that was built in the early 1970s.

There, correctional officers were not able to separate inmates by offense, meaning people who were charged with low-level offenses were placed in the same area as people convicted of felonies.

Many lights did not work in the old jail, leaving inmates sitting in darkness. Sewage often overflowed. The ceilings were so low that inmates were able to tear down the cameras.

At the new jail, which opened in 2020, these are no longer problems, said Dorney, who is in charge of the facility. There are also no COs still working who were there at the time Franklin died.

"I just want everyone to know the strides that we've made here," Dorney said.

While officers receive 60 hours of training over their first nine months, no new training has been added since Franklin's death.

But Derick Allison, the lawyer who is representing the Franklin family, said this is not enough. He says increased training is required so people do not die as Franklin did.

"When you don't train your jailers and you don't obviously have a sheriff that's trained, that's the real danger," Allison said. "I mean it doesn't matter how nice the facility is if the people who run the facility don't know how to properly operate it and how to treat the inmates as human beings. It doesn't matter how nice the facility is. So certainly we would like to see additional training in use of force and just general training in jailers."

People in jail deserve better treatment than what they are getting, Allison said.

"I don't know how we get there, but somebody needs to step in and ensure that these officers who are in charge of these inmates and in charge of people who are just arrested or are accused of a crime and presumed to be innocent of such crime are treated fairly and they have their constitutional rights protected," Allison said.

Allison is also concerned that the new facility is understaffed and wants more officers assigned to the jail.

"I think it's something that the people of Franklin County and Arkansas deserve," Allison said.   

(c)2021 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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