Sheriff Leonard briefs Perry Kiwanians on state of county jail

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Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard, center, and Kiwanis Club Division 13 Lt. Governor Bob Dunaway, right, were welcomed Tuesday by Perry Kiwanis Club Vice President Vince Sturm. Photo courtesy Perry Kiwanis Club Secretary Doug Wood

The Perry Kiwanis Club welcomed two guests to their weekly lunch meeting.

The first was Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard, who informed the membership about space problems at the Dallas County Jail. Leonard said Dallas County now houses more prisoners in the Story County Jail than they do in the Dallas County Jail.

Leonard said the county jail is also currently undergoing its annual inspection by the Iowa Department of Corrections. There are requirements for lighting, diet and square footage for each prisoner, and the jail will soon be limited to 12 inmates.

He showed the Kiwanians an architect’s drawings of the proposed law enforcement center the county wants to build on 40 acres of land east of Adel and west of Ortonville. Dallas County voters have rejected the new jail three times in recent years.

Leonard said female prisoners are more difficult to handle because they must be kept separate from the males. If one female is taken into custody, she will have a six-bed cell all to herself because no males can be placed with her.

Leonard discussed other duties of the sheriff’s department, including processing all concealed-weapons and firearm permits, making monthly checks on registered sex offenders, transporting prisoners to and from other areas in Iowa and other states, patrolling the unincorporated areas of Dallas County and other duties.

The county now houses so many of its inmates in other jails that the sheriff’s office has had to hire more transport officers. There are now one full-time and two part-time transport officers, he said.

A Kiwanian asked the sheriff about body cameras. Leonard said the department does not currently use them but may in the future. He said his office responded to 12,000 calls for service in 2015 with no concerns from the public. He said storing the body-camera videotape presents a logistical challenge.

Leonard also spoke about the growing concern over the increase in the number of people in Dallas County on the terrorist watch list. He shared stories of incidents involving suspicious activity with people on the terrorist watch list in Dallas and Polk counties, such as an incident in which two persons from this list had come from the east coast and were checking systems with their lap top computer from their car in Des Moines. They were stopped and questioned by the DOT.

Leonard also put a lot of emphasis on the county’s need for mental health facilities and the great problem of placing people with mental illness because there very few available beds in the state.

He said people with mental issues can also be costly to the county. A deputy sheriff has to stay with a mental health patient in the regular hospital 24 hours per day if there is no appropriate mental health placement available. One mental health prisoner currently costs the county $400 each day to house in a facility until the person’s court date comes up.

The second person addressing the Perry Kiwanis Club at the Hotel Pattee this week was Kiwanis Club Division 13 Lt. Gov. Bob Dunaway, who spoke about upcoming Kiwanis Club events at the division level.

Events include Nebraska-Iowa District Governor Jody Melcher’s official visit in Des Moines May 31, Kiwanis Club officer training June 4 in Des Moines, the Jim Jordan memorial golf tournament to benefit Special Olympics August 17 and a conference on early-childhood brain development featuring Dr. Wil Blechman, which will be held in Des Moines May 31 to June 2.

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