Leadership in a local jail

A sheriff checks himself in to the lodging he runs. Good idea. Brave man.

Of course a sheriff who checks himself into his own jail isn’t really going to experience what the prisoners experience. And in some jails he might not survive. But

Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County, Illinois

showed more courage, more dedication, and more sense of what it really means to be a leader than we’ve come to expect from jail managers, and he has my admiration for it.

Short of Sheriff Curran’s approach, there are other ways to find out what’s actually going on. Jails have rapid turnover, like hotels. It would be easy for a contractor (couldn’t do it with jail personnel) to collect some information from recent releasees; Hilton has done it for a generation or more.

Corrections management is an astoundingly tough assignment; but that’s a reason to work at it harder, not to throw up your hands. I hope the sheriff had a thorough medical exam. Everyone who goes to jail should be tested for infectious disease on the way in and the way out; otherwise the jails turn into incubators for, e.g., TB.

A large fraction of America’s social problems pass through its jails, and the jails mostly don’t do anything to fix them. With more leaders like Mark Curran, that might change.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com