Citizens Academy – Session 7 Update

​​​Dozens of Alachua County residents who embarked on their latest tour of county facilities Thursday were locked down behind metal doors along with hundreds of inmates.

It was all part of a scheduled Citizens Academy visit to the Alachua County Jail where the class learned about security measures, available programs, mental health resources and how the legal process works for those arrested.

The academy is an eight-week educational course run by Alachua County Strategic Performance Manager Donna Bradbrook. It partners with local constitutional officers, judicial officers, library district, school board and health department to give residents a unique opportunity to learn about various aspects of local government and the daily activities performed by some of the county’s top officials.

“Meeting the sheriff's office Department of Jail leadership and touring the inner workings at the jail is an important part of the Citizens Academy not only because it ties together the earlier presentations from the Alachua County sheriff, the state attorney, the public defender, the judiciary representative, and discussion points during the county's budget session,” Bradbrook said, ”the tour and staff interaction dispels several preconceived notions, mostly obtained through TV and movies.”

Alachua County Jail

The class arrived early at the work release building located near the jail (3371 NE 39th Ave., Gainesville) and were told the rules: No cell phones, no knives or any other objects that could be considered a weapon. Bradbrook reminded the group that many of the inmates have not yet gone to trial and are innocent until proven guilty.

The class then walked over to the jail where they were met by Jail Director Maj. Jeff Cloutier and a team of fellow law enforcement officers. 

In 1998, the County Commission, through an interlocal agreement, contracted with the Alachua County sheriff to operate the jail. The 314,000-square-foot facility is designed to incarcerate male and female offenders for up to a year.
County Jail
Currently, the jail houses about 900 inmates, an uptick of more than 100 from a year ago. About 40 of those individuals have been sentenced and waiting to go to prison, though state law only allows 15 county inmates per week to be transferred.

The class was split into four groups and escorted around the jail by law enforcement. They entered a secured door and waited for it to close behind them before the next one opened.

Passing by several holding cells, a group entered the virtual first-appearance courtroom. 

This is where inmates go before a judge virtually for their arraignment.

The class then made their way to booking. They passed changing rooms, restraint chairs and witnessed inmates being escorted by law enforcement along hallways. Each section of the jail brought a host of questions that included thoughts on the bonding system, the safety of inmates and mental health considerations.

The class had questions about commissary items and phone calls worked. They learned that the County Commission had made outgoing jail calls free for inmates and removed fees for most commissary items.

Visitors were taken to the jail library and classroom shortly after where they learned about inmate programs.jail libraryjail classroom
Career Source helps inmates find employment upon release. They also receive help with resume writing. A library partnership includes a re-entry conference job fair to further find career options after release and a GED teacher and instructor is available to help with their education if needed.

Inmates at the jail wear three different uniforms: Women wear blue, men wear green and white stripes and “trustees” wear orange. A trustee is an inmate who has demonstrated they are ready to take on extra responsibilities and is rewarded with extra benefits while incarcerated, said Inmate Support Bureau Chief Fotina Perry.

The last stop for visitors was the general population area where a mass of inmates could be seen from behind the glass window/walls. Both the class and many inmates were looking at each other with curiosity and interest.

The Alachua County Jail goes through several layers of accountability, accreditations, audits and inspections. Some are done monthly, quarterly, annually or even every three years. Cloutier said he prides himself on knowing the jail meets or exceeds all levels of expectations for levels of care, maintenance, services and cleanliness.

Learn more about the Department of the Jail.

Court Services

Following the jail visit, the class walked back to the work release building to learn another aspect of the judicial system: Court Services.

Programs that fall under Court Services include investigations, pretrial services, probation, community service, drug court, mental health court and veterans’ treatment court.

Thursday’s presentation was led by Assistant Directors Joe Lipsey and Salatheia Jenkins-Brown, the program supervisors explained how their offices intersect with the jail and courtrooms.Lipsey
The team attempts to reduce the need for incarceration by supplying information to the court, along with cost-effective and community-based supervision and services that will still ensure public safety.

“The key objective for our Court Services staff is to provide information to the court so judges can decide which offenders can be managed effectively in the community,” Jenkins-Brown said.

State law says that low-risk offenders don’t need to be in a high-security detention facility and that those simply violating a municipal or county ordinance are entitled to a pretrial release upon reasonable conditions. Plus, if the individual is in custody, they are unable to work, can’t support their families, and there is no tax revenue for the county and state.

When it comes to managing the jail’s population, Court Services identified 371 clients in fiscal year 2022-2023 that had highly acute medical and mental health issues. About 80% of those individuals were released from jail with conditions.

Community service programs also allow indigent offenders to do work in lieu of paying costs and fines. During 2022-2023, 1,264 clients performed a combined 27,156 hours of community service hours.

Learn more about Court Services.

For more information, contact Alachua County Public Information Officer Andrew Caplan at 352-264-6975 or

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