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Hillsborough jail report to be released today

TAMPA — It was an image sent around the world: the quadriplegic dumped to the floor by a Hills­borough County jail deputy.

Today, seven months after the Orient Road Jail booking incident, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee will hear final recommendations from a panel he created to examine the detention system amid a public relations nightmare.

James Sewell, chairman of the 11-person commission, wouldn't say Tuesday how he thinks the local jails fared: "I promise to tell you tomorrow," he said.

But the retired Florida Department of Law Enforcement administrator said the 30-page report will contain findings and recommendations on everything from jail supervision and staff training to inmate grievance procedures.

"I think we felt that everything contributed to the operation of the jail," he said.

The commission met publicly 12 times in daylong meetings. Sheriff's Office administrators and staff members shared the ins and outs of jail operations, including food service, medical care and personnel.

The panel split up into three work groups, interviewing about 150 sworn and civilian employees on matters dealing with internal affairs, grievances and use of force.

Gee said he hadn't seen the report yet but was eager to hear the findings.

"No matter what I see tomorrow, I think it was worthwhile," Gee said. "If there's areas for improvement, hey, we'll improve. Our goal is to run a good operation, not a shoddy one."

Sewell said the report was written jointly by the commission members, with sections drafted in the three work groups, then rewritten by Sewell and sent back to the panelists for more revisions.

Brian Sterner, the quadriplegic whose story prompted the commission, attended more than one meeting, but never directly addressed the panel, though he was invited to do so.

Sterner's former attorney, John Trevena, said he doesn't expect the group's findings to spur sweeping change.

"I doubt it will be that critical," Trevena said. "I don't think there will ever be any real reform until outside individuals are put in an oversight capacity to monitor the operations of the jail."

Community activist Al McCray, who attended most of the meetings, said he plans to issue his own report later this week.

Michael Maddux, Sterner's latest attorney, complimented the work Sewell and the commission has done.

"I'm happy that something positive is going to come out of what Brian went through," he said.

The jails chief, Col. David Parrish, said he hasn't yet finished reading a rough draft of the report, but he was impressed with the panel's thoroughness.

"The commission took the sheriff's direction to heart and has done a top-to-bottom review of the jail system," he said. "Any time you have someone look at your operation with an unbiased, independent perspective, it's a good thing."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or rcatalanello@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

Read the report

The jail commission's report is expected to be posted today on the Sheriff's Office Web site:

www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.

Hillsborough jail report to be released today 09/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 4:11pm]
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