By Megan Tilk September 20, 2008
After cutting inmates’ desserts from their jailhouse menus in an effort to save money, Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong is now offering popcorn and movie nights.
While touring some neighboring jails, Mr. Strong realized that the Buchanan County Jail could use a fresh coat of paint. He also learned what kept the other jails looking so fresh — inmate incentives. So he began popcorn and movie nights.
Mr. Strong said after maintenance workers repaired the graffiti and paint-chipping damage done over time by inmates, he began allowing non-violent offenders the opportunity for a late night PG-rated movie and popcorn to try to ensure the damage wasn’t done again.
“There’s no nudity, no violence or anything that would agitate or excite the prisoners in anyway,” Mr. Strong said. “If they abuse it, they don’t get it.”
Mr. Strong said in the last six weeks that jailers have conducted the program that he can only remember one time the privilege was taken away.
So why remove privileges such as dessert but grant a movie night?
“When you stop and think about it, it comes down to money,” Mr. Strong said. “Look at this as preventive maintenance.”
Mr. Strong, who is up for re-election in November, believes that cleaner facilities lead to fewer inmate infections, fewer chances of inmates hiding contraband and fewer accidents.
Galen Higdon, Mr. Strong’s Republican opponent, remembers movie nights at the Buchanan County Jail years ago.
“There’s always room for programs to help pass the time,” Mr. Higdon said. “Most of the people that are in there, for the most part, are accused of a crime and not yet convicted.”
“If it’s working, don’t change it, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Mr. Higdon said.