The Sumter County Sheriff's Office Community Relations Citizens' Advisory Board took a tour of Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center on Monday to understand how the facility operates during its make-up meeting.
Capt. Ron Gaillard led the board …
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Capt. Ron Gaillard led the board members on a tour of the jail so they could see the courtroom where first appearance hearings are held, the housing pods where the inmates are detained, inmate recreation areas and the classroom where GED and WorkKeys instructions are held.
Since Sheriff Anthony Dennis assumed control of the jail in September, with the approval of Sumter County Council, the detention center has undergone multiple renovations and upgrades and now offers more opportunities for inmates to gain a trade.
The renovations have increased morale among the correctional officers, Dennis said.
As for the educational and trade classes, Dennis said many inmates have taken advantage of the learning opportunities such as the carpentry class, which could financially benefit inmates who are behind on child support payments.
The class allows inmates to make payments on child support when the items they make, most recently picnic benches, are sold on a secure government website.
The first set of benches were sold to the county recreation department, Dennis said.
Gaillard said the inmates are further encouraged to be productive and cooperative by offering rewards for having the cleanest housing pods during inspections on Fridays.
Inmates in the cleanest and most organized pod get to stay up a few hours later and could receive an extra meal for that Friday night, he said.
The inmates have to work together to get that prize, and that teamwork makes a difference, he said.
Dennis also talked about two community outreach ideas: one that will hopefully bring in new officers and another to strengthen the agency's relationship with the public.
The sheriff is putting together a recruitment video for the sheriff's office and detention center and plans to have the video played during commercial breaks on TV.
"Any place we can show our face and show the uniform," Dennis said.
He said some people do not realize the sheriff's office has an aviation unit, dive team and a K-9 unit.
The other outreach plan involves sheriff's office staff giving out ice cream to children in different areas of the county.
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