Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Public safety

Getting booked at the Land O'Lakes jail? There's a video for that.

LAND O'LAKES — It was premiere day, and not a single member of the audience looked amused.

All 26 of them sat in four rows of plastic chairs on a cold concrete floor in a sterile white room. Thick arms folded over Creamsicle-colored smocks. Some looked up when the deputy flipped on a TV shelved 7 feet up on the wall, out of their reach.

Acoustic guitar music sang from the TV speakers. A bright gold sheriff's star faded into the middle of the screen. Then, Doug Tobin came on in his big, warm radio voice.

"Welcome to the Pasco Detention Bureau!"

Images rolled of inmates in their daily routines, being patted down and passing through hydraulically locked doors in hallways.

"We realize it is not your desire to be in jail," Tobin's recorded voice continued. "With respect and cooperation, we can make your stay here relatively problem free."

None of them knew it, but this group of inmates at the Land O'Lakes jail was the first to see the debut of the new inmate orientation video.

The 7-year-old prequel to this one wasn't exactly a gripping piece of cinema, said Tobin, a Pasco Sheriff's spokesman.

In the grainy video, now-retired Lt. Dennis Kingsley stood behind a lectern, framed by the national and state flags on either side and a Pasco County Sheriff sign above. Fluorescent lights glinted off his badge and glasses, blocking out his eyes. His voice gave a slight reverb like that of a local commercial. All the while, Kingsley delivered a 40-minute diatribe on the do's and don'ts of detention.

Fifteen minutes in, the inmates would turn to each other to talk or leave for bathroom breaks, said Sgt. Neal Berry.

Then, he would get the questions.

Berry said he usually spends 45 minutes a day answering information requests on items already covered in the video. Questions on booking, behavior and court appearances.

Besides, most of the information in the video was already in the inmate handbook, which is actually a laminated poster board bolted to the wall just below the TV.

Just before Christmas last year, Berry opted for a format change.

"Let's make it short, sweet," he told other deputies.

The new video, narrated by Tobin, once a Bay News 9 reporter, is about half the time of the old one. Twenty-one minutes and 8 seconds.

With about 288 inmates cycling through every week, the video will have an annual audience of around 15,000 a year.

Tobin and Berry hope the over-arching theme this time will be clear: Read the book.

Tobin was there Friday morning at his own premiere. He looked on through a shatter-proof window over the group of inmates. The video rolled at 9:45 a.m.

At 1 p.m., they would have their first appearance in another room of the jail, where a judge in the New Port Richey courthouse would read them their charges and bonds over a closed-circuit TV. The voice in Tobin's video explained their bond options.

The video also explained how cell assignments are made, the importance of keeping cells clean and the punishment for rules broken.

Three-quarters of the way through the video, during the blood-borne pathogens section on how inmates can protect themselves from Hepatitis and HIV during their stay, an inmate in the third row slumped.

A minute later, an inmate in the fourth row pulled his arms into his sleeves, closed his eyes and rested his chin on his chest.

They'd all been arrested since Thursday morning. Some had come in during the wee hours of Friday morning. Some were still drunk from the night before. But most seemed to be watching all the way through.

Given those circumstances, Tobin considers his video a success.

The video ended around 10:10. When the credits rolled, the inmates stacked their chairs in a corner and went to their cells. Some lay on their cots and went back to sleep.

Day one was just beginning.

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