Sarasota County Jail History

In July of 1956, a modern jail was constructed under the helm of Sheriff Ross Boyer.  The cost of the new facility was $318,000 and included an apartment for Sheriff Boyer and his family on the second floor of the jail. Sheriff Boyer lived above the jail until July 1962, when staffing was increased and the need for the Sheriff to live in the jail was no longer a necessity.  Today, after major renovations, this structure (the “Old Courthouse”) houses the Clerk of the Court and various other offices, as well as several courtrooms.  The recent renovation was designed to recreate the original “flavor” of the courthouse during its heyday.

In August of 1975, under the direction of Sheriff Jim Hardcastle and at a cost of $5.3 million, a second jail was constructed to hold an additional 214 inmates.  This jail is still in use today, and is called the “West Wing.”  At the present time, this wing houses females and new arrivals.  Also located in the West Wing area are programs and services, inmate property, classification, and office space dedicated to supervisory needs.

In June of 1987, under the direction of Sheriff Geoffrey Monge, at a cost of $12.2 million, the “East Wing” jail opened with additional bed space for 540 inmates.  This is a linear style housing design, and consists of the main housing area for males, juveniles, administrative and punitively segregated inmates, and special management inmates.  The recreation area is also located on the roof of the East Wing.

In November of 2002, at a cost of $15.5 million, a direct supervision wing was opened.  This “North Wing” provides bed space for 288 inmates.  The new addition also includes a medical housing floor for 32 inmates, a new kitchen facility, inmate video visitation, and administrative offices. Officers are “posted” within the cell pods and have direct inmate contact 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Specialized training relating to direct supervision philosophies, inmate behavior, rules and discipline is required prior to assignment in the direct supervision wing.

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Currently, Major Brian Meinberg is the Division Commander.  The Corrections staff is split into two bureaus (Operations and Services) including two Captains, eight Lieutenants, and twenty Sergeants, 171 Corrections Deputies and 69 civilian employees.  The Sheriff budgeted over 25 million to operate the Sarasota County Jail in 2015.  Daily operations require 140 deputies assigned to housing duties that include care, custody and control over an average population of 950 inmates that require three meals per day. Daily laundry duties involve 20 commercial size loads of clothing which are cleaned and distributed daily.  The Sarasota County Jail has a rated capacity of 1,026 and a classification capacity of 827 (appropriate space in order to ideally separate inmates and provide adequate programs).  The total number of inmates processed into the facility in 2013 was 15,149.  In 2009, the new “open” booking area was unveiled.  The change has provided quicker transition into custody of arrestees and a safer environment for both the arrestees and staff, which is outlined in the Exemplary Projects section of this book.

A total of seventy-six programs and services are offered through the Inmate Program Coordinator’s Office, including self-help, religious and nonreligious workshops and classes.  Some of the programs offered are “Personal Insight,” “Free to Grow,” “Anger Management,” and parenting classes for both men and women.  These programs are solely presented by volunteers. For those programs not funded, inmate welfare funds are utilized to pay for them placing no additional tax burden on the community.  Nearly 180 inmates graduated various programs in 2011.  The Inmate Program Coordinator’s Office handles an average of 700 weekly requests for various types of inmate services, from class and devotional attendance requests, to scripture and literature reading materials.  In 2009, Sheriff Knight created an Addiction Recovery Pod in the jail facility.  Located in one of the direct supervision pods of the North Wing, this voluntary 12-Step program is presented by volunteers from the local Salvation Army who works with the inmates to achieve sobriety.  It is administered through the Inmate Program Coordinator’s Office.

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In the last couple of years, a concerted effort has been made to establish relationships between the Sarasota County Jail and various surrounding law enforcement agencies in order to gather intelligence relating to gang membership and identify street names of arrested individuals.  By establishing a rapport with various known street-wise inmates, the coordinator of this project has amassed key intelligence information.  From this, a database has been developed which includes mug shots, tattoos, hair color, aliases, date of last arrest and other valuable information.  On a daily basis, this data is requested by local law enforcement agencies as they attempt to solve crimes committed by suspected individuals.  On several occasions, information provided via this database has proven extremely effective, resulting in arrests for rape, burglaries and drug sales.