Alva Review-Courier -

Commutation has little effect on BJCC inmate numbers


November 24, 2019

Only 18 inmates at Bill Johnson Correctional Center (BJCC) were qualified for commutation of their sentences for an early release from prison, according to Warden Becky Guffy. During the Tuesday noon meeting of the BJCC Citizen Advisory Board, she said two of those were discharged before the commutation date. Two were discharged to other jurisdictions. That left 14 to be released from BJCC.

Guffy said the prison staff made sure those being released had places to stay, jobs to go to, and medical needs met before the release date. She said all were told, as are all those being released, “If you’re about to jump off the cliff, don’t. Call us.” They encourage those being released to contact them if they are having problems.

The release did not affect population numbers at BJCC since they also had 19 new inmates come in the door.

Guffy said when she first came to BJCC, 767 inmates were being housed there. The facility was maxed out. Today, the population is down to 379. The prison was originally built for 300 inmates.

In addition to the effect of State Questions 780 and 781, Guffy said the population has decreased because of expanded GPS use and more counties using drug courts instead of sending people to incarceration.

Career Tech Classes

Career Tech classes have been in operation almost two years now at BJCC. The classes began in February 2018. Guffy said 214 inmates have been through the classes. The number of classes they take varies depending on the length of sentences. She said 93 inmates have completed the full program. Of the 214 attending those classes, only three have “recidivated” or returned to prison.

Guffy said the classes focus on skills like basic carpentry and basic plumbing.

Chapel Renovations, Repairs

At the last meeting, board members inspected the chapel roof which had been leaking. Guffy showed a photo of an area that had been patched. She said the patch stopped the leaks for a while but now it is “not holding.” The chapel has suffered some damage inside due to the leaks.

Guffy said she would be seeking help from the chapel committee on replacing the roof. Richard Ryerson volunteered that his business would furnish needed tools as long as they have them on hand. Guffy said the sub-roofing is a problem. She said inmates can take off the old shingles, but she doesn’t think they are capable of putting on the new shingles properly. She said their inmate population age range is 18-25, and they don’t have the roofing skills needed.

When asked if a metal roof had been considered, Guffy said she had received an estimate of $13,000 to $18,000. Liz Smith asked if a supervisor could be hired to oversee inmates putting on the roofing. Guffy said that raises liability issues and getting clearance for prison work.

Todd Holder said he believes a composite roof has more appeal. He said the chapel “needs to be the nicest building at the prison.” He also pointed out that this is the wrong season for roofing so a decision can wait.

There was discussion about the amount of damage. Guffy said they can’t see into the attic area above the ceiling other than removing a light fixture and trying to look through that opening.

Kyle Hughbanks said a decision needs to be made before spring so work can begin then. Guffy agreed and said they will continue to patch the roof until then.

Arden Chaffee made a tongue-in-cheek offer of a blue tarp. Sonja Williams said she has a brown one. Guffy said brown was preferable as blue is a gang color. Guffy said she may be a farm girl, but she is not putting hay bales or tires on the roof.

Greatest Need

As Guffy closed her report, Holder asked her to state her greatest need that the advisory board could help with. She immediately answered the chapel roof.

Holder asked what would be number two. That took a little longer, but Guffy said Alva needs a daycare center. Chaffee said the older Lutheran Daycare facility is being updated and will be reopening under new management. Guffy said that would really help her staff. She said with recent pay increases, recruitment and retention rates are up. They’re still not at a level where staff can work four days and have three off, but they are getting closer.

Holder asked if the regional academy system being moved to a centrally located academy has affected the number of correctional officers at BJCC. Guffy said it has meant fewer female officers since it is more difficult for them to be away from families for training. However, she understands the need for consistency in training.

Guffy said BJCC could use a new standalone building for Career Tech classes. Right now only 15 inmates at a time can attend a class due to the small space available. More could benefit from the classes if they had a separate building.

Senate Bill 869 being considered in the state legislature would give third parties the ability to give the CDL written test. Guffy is hopeful this will pass so BJCC could work with inmates to pass the written part of the CDL while incarcerated.

25th Anniversary

Guffy said that Sept. 4, 2020, is the 25th anniversary of the opening of BJCC. A big celebration is being planned. She asked the board members for help with photos and other materials from that opening.

Chapel Needs

The chapel needs a new microphone stand for the pulpit, and Guffy passed around information on one for $167 the chaplain has selected. She also said the wooden pulpit “is shot”. If they can get the materials, she said, the inmates can build a new one.

Holder quickly made a motion for the advisory board to pay for the mike stand and the materials needed for the pulpit. Williams seconded, and the motion carried.


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