Inside the Lake County Jail: No Swearing

K9 units regularly sweep Waukegan's Robert H. Babcox Justice Center

By BJ Lutz and Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Thursday, May 24, 2012  |  Updated 7:50 PM CDT
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Drugs are often a big problem in other jails, but none have been found in the Lake County jail in nearly three years.

Drugs are often a big problem in other jails, but none have been found in the Lake County jail in nearly three years.

When it comes to his jail, Lake County Sheriff Tom Curran runs a tight ship. It was a point driven home Thursday when K9 teams moved in to search the six story building for drugs.

Curren also enforces the small rules, like a ban on swearing. He said it reduces the amount of enforcement needed for big infractions like fighting, gambling or extortion.

"Our jail is spotless, you will not hear any f-bombs or profanity whatsoever," said Curren.

Inside the facility, the Robert H. Babcox Justice Center, inmates are kept in pods. It's where their cells are located. It's where they recreate. And when visitors come, the inmates don't leave the facility; the visitors come to them.

"Our inmates are classified on the basis of behavior, not offense. So that any pod you are going through you will see murderers mixed in with simple batteries," said Curren.

Drugs are often a big problem in other jails, but none have been found in the building on 20 S. County St. in Waukegan for nearly three years. Curren attributes that success to the sweeps done by the Lake County Corrections Response Team and their K9 unit.

In about 2.5 hours, the dogs and deputies can do a top-to-bottom shakedown of the entire jail. The specially-trained German Shepherds are in their element, their handlers say, enjoying the search even more than a run in the park.

Once the inmates' cells are searched, each of the 638 prisoners are patted down to make sure they have nothing on their person.

"Here we enforce all the rules," said Lt. Nick Kalfas, a unit commander for the Correctional Response Team. "Some are very trivial to what the outside world would see. We have inmates that come in all the time from other counties saying, 'You want me to go to my cell for an hour because I swore?' Yes that’s why."

"It sets the tone for the housing unit," he said.

That tone continued even as the dogs continued their search for contraband. Inmates on Thursday sat quietly in their community area and waited for corrections officers to tell them they could go back into their cells.

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