Behind the scenes at Washington County Jail

Editor's Note: This is the 2nd of a 3-part series from Jennifer Hoff. Tune in Feb. 21 for her last installment.

Watch live: A Q&A Facebook Live with Sgt. Caprice Massey

HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) -- The Washington County Jail houses 572 beds -- and about 500 of them are full.

However, only 150 deputies work at the jail. There are already 10 job openings and even worse -- 50 deputies are eligible to retire.

KOIN 6 News was able to get a behind the scenes look at the jail -- which includes what a typical day for a deputy looks like and the procedures that are in place to help ensure things run smoothly.

A deputy's day -- like an inmate -- can start in the intake area. Up to 50 inmates are booked here every day.

Deputy Mandi Werder said, "They are always in handcuffs and are sat down. Once we get the necessary paperwork, we pat them down, search for any contraband, weapons, injuries."

According to Werder, they ask the inmates a lot of questions -- especially if they have any injuries. After a medical staff checks out an injured inmate, the inmate will be taken to the hospital with their arresting officer until they're cleared.

If an inmate isn't injured, they get dressed and then they're housed in one of the units. Many of the units are close to full -- including the medical observation unit, which is a pod that houses inmates with mental illness.

"I try to treat everybody how I want to be treated and it works, unless they give me a reason not to treat them that way," Werder said.

Werder is an 8-year jail veteran and rotates between the different pods -- including where women inmates are housed and maximum security.

"We do rounds," Werder said. "They are required every 30 minutes."

However, there is only one deputy in each pod to watch over 60 inmates -- most of whom spend a lot of their time outside their cells.

Allowing inmates time outside of their cells is a policy that deputies say reward good behavior and commands respect. The policy -- coupled with the county's core values -- leads to fewer problems.

Sgt. Caprice Massey said, "The Washington County core values are do the right thing, treat everyone the way you want to be treated and always do your best. Every contact we have with community, with inmates in the jail, with each other is based on those core values."

Almost a year ago, Massey was put in charge to lead a new recruitment team that so far has only placed 36 people in the hiring process. However, Massey said that number should be twice that amount.

"We do not have enough applicants applying from the beginning and we have to increase that number," Massey said.

The entire recruitment process can take 6 months -- including some training at the state academy and even more if you want to be a patrol deputy.

"We have an in-house academy that recruits attend first, part of that is the MILO and Confrontational Simulation," Sgt. Massey said. "From there, patrol recruits go to the academy in Salem for 17 weeks and jail recruits go to the academy for 6 weeks. Our 8-week academy here prepares them to excel in the state academy. The recruits 18-month probation begins the day they get hired and all training from date of hire is paid."

One of the first parts of the recruitment process is the physical abilities test where recruits have to get through an obstacle 6 times in less than 5 minutes and 30 seconds -- which includes pulling a 160-pound dummy 25 feet.

Werder went through that process, but said it would have been helpful to get experience in the jail first.

"Looking back, I wish I would have had this experience insider the jail because you really learn how to talk to people and you do learn behaviors and things to look for and stuff and having that and then going out to the road would be so much better," Werder said.

The Washington County Jail -- which is bigger than 5 acres -- includes one of Oregon's first housing units for inmates with special needs -- like medical (even cancer), disabilities, hard of hearing, mobility and mental health.

"We do have a really good mental illness staff," Werder said. "They see them once or twice a day and talk to them about resources."

One of the inmates living in the medical observation unit is Frank, who said, "They're more accommodating, they're friendlier, respectful and I treat them with respect as well."

Losing more deputies would be devastating as they play a critical role in the jail, but Massey is determined to not let that happen. 

"I love my job, I can't imagine doing anything other than what I do and the great thing about recruitment -- is for the first time in my career -- almost everyone I come into contact with likes me," Massey said laughing. "They want to talk to me, it's so awesome.

Sgt. Massey is worried there's not a deep-seated interest in law enforcement like there was a generation ago. She also said the booming technology industry is making it hard to attract applicants.

However, Massey emphasized that applicants don't need a college degree to apply.

Additional Information and Resources:

On Feb. 21, KOIN 6 News will take a closer look at how deputies choose to use lethal force. Our Jennifer Hoff gets a 1-on-1 training session.

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