Sheriff set to do the write thing | PostIndependent.com

Sheriff set to do the write thing

Bobby MagillPost Independent Staff

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario on Wednesday denied allegations of inmate abuse at the Garfield County Jail. He also said that a visitation policy will be added to the jail’s written policies and procedures after the jail’s visitation rules were questioned last week in federal court in Denver. U.S. District Judge Walker Miller denied the American Civil Liberties Union’s motion for a restraining order against Vallario to prevent him from limiting attorneys’ access to inmates at the jail. Vallario returned from vacation in Australia this week after being unavailable to comment on jail policies or appear in court.The ACLU accused Vallario of changing an unwritten visitation policy following the group’s May 11 visit to the jail to interview inmates in person about alleged human rights abuses there. ACLU lawyers were allowed to speak with the inmates that day. But when the lawyers returned to interview more inmates on June 15 and 16, a new jail policy was in effect requiring jailers to ask inmates who their lawyer is, and if they didn’t say they were represented by the ACLU, the ACLU wasn’t allowed to talk with the inmates. Vallario said his jailers on May 11 assumed that the ACLU lawyers were actually representing the inmates they wanted to interview, when they actually did not. The policy was revised again after the June 16 visit. That version, requiring jailers to ask inmates who their attorney is or if they are seeking representation from the attorney or legal organization who wants to meet with them, will be in writing by the end of the week, Vallario said. In all circumstances, inmates must initiate a meeting with an attorney themselves, he said. The policy does not bar the ACLU or any similar organization from meeting with inmates as long as the inmate is seeking representation from the group. “You don’t get carte blanche to come in and start interviewing people,” Vallario said of lawyers visiting the jail. He said that prior to the current visitation policy, inmates’ family members have claimed to be lawyers and asked to meet with inmates in person, abusing the jail’s visitation policies. Now, lawyers must provide credentials. The new policy will prevent inmates from getting visits from unwanted lawyers, Vallario said.The ACLU lawyers claimed that the jail’s visitation policy could hamper their investigation into a slate of allegations of abuses in the jail brought forth by at least two inmates involved in an alleged November 2005 jail riot.Allegations include abusive use of a restraint chair and pepperball guns as punishment for inmates, failure to draft written policies that govern jailers’ use of force against inmates, denial of healthcare to inmates, and many others. Vallario went over each of the ACLU’s allegations against the jail in court documents and called them “100 percent false” and “very reactionary,” because the ACLU is basing the allegations on the accusations of “career criminals” who are trying to entertain themselves by complaining to the ACLU. Contrary to the ACLU’s claims, the Sheriff’s Department has written policies governing the treatment of inmates that were adopted more than two years ago. “By nature of what we do, we do not punish people,” Vallario said. “That’s what a judge is for. Law enforcement requires behavioral compliance. We’re going to use the minimum amount of force to get you to comply.””We don’t mistreat people,” he said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com


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