Clem Information Strategies works where public policy, communications, and outreach intersect.

Connie Clem, Principal, connie at
@ConnieInfo | | 303.242.6278
Niwot, Colorado, USA

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Jails matter! But don’t take my word for it.

Talk with your local public safety leaders. Check out agency websites. If you know someone who works in a jail or has spent time in one as a volunteer or a detainee, see what they can tell you.

Photo: Jar [o] / Liberation by Jar [o] via Flickr Creative Commons

Find out who is in your city or county jail. What are they in for? How long have they been there? How many times have they been in jail before? What does it cost per day to house an inmate?

How many are sentenced, and how many are waiting for their trial?

How many could not pay bail, so they can’t get out?

How many are considered too dangerous to be released before trial because of their current charge or criminal history? How many have been violent while in the jail?

How many have tried to injure themselves? How many have a mental illness? How many are addicted to alcohol, painkillers, or other drugs? How many are in on domestic violence charges?

Is the jail able to provide treatment and counseling to everyone who needs it? Are there waiting lists? What’s the pharmacy bill?

How many have chronic diseases? How many are homeless?

How many had a job when they were arrested? How many didn’t make it through high school? How many can’t read above a 5th grade level? How many don’t speak English?

How many are pregnant? How many are working in the sex trade and supporting a “manager”? (Euphemism mine.) Are they also addicted and unable to leave him? Does one guy seem to visit a lot of different women?

The fact is, jails are the front line for confronting all kinds of social issues. The first step is understanding who ends up in jail and why. Then we can ask if the jail has the funding it needs, and the alliances it needs, to get people on the right track. So they don’t end up in jail (or the emergency room) again.

Does your local corrections agency have an effective online presence? See my article on jails and social media from 2010. And tell me what’s working well (or not so well) today.

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Industries examined?

October 7, 2016

Recently inmate industries made the news on a public radio talk program:  “The National Prison Strike (According To Prisoners),” September 28, 2016, On Point, WBUR, Boston, Massachusetts. I applaud fresh attention given to jails and prisons, so this was good to hear. However, the program seemed to accept at face value the comments of the […]

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Who’s Responsible?

September 29, 2015

Lately we’re seeing more attention to interactions between corrections/law enforcement personnel and community members, possible suspects, detainees, and inmates. This is a good thing—because accountability is important, and also because the scrutiny is helping the public to learn more about patrol work and jails. A big question is, how responsible is an agency leader for […]

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Jail Standards, Classification, and Safety

September 17, 2015

Last week I sat in on a meeting of jail inspection agency leaders from around the United States. These people work in state government, and their mission is to ensure safety and security in the jails they work with. They or their staff members visit each local facility statewide to check whether these jails meet […]

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What’s the difference between prison and jail?

November 3, 2013

You know how you’re watching the news, and the reporter solemnly says a criminal will be spending his or her life in jail, or will serve a 20-year jail sentence, or is languishing in prison waiting for trial? It’s not going to happen. Let me clear this up. In the United States, we often encounter […]

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Infographic – social media + emergency response

June 10, 2013

Must share this. From USF Master of Public Admin program. University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration

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