Sgt. Devin Ames of the Highland County Sheriff’s Office has been named Corrections Officer of the Year by his department.
Lt. Chris Lengefeld, the county jail administrator, said Wednesday that the award was given because of Ames’ consistent display of “teamwork, excellent job knowledge, and dedication to this office.”
Lengefeld said the highlight of Ames’ performance came when Anneka Collins, the county prosecutor, informed him recently that during 2013, 33 inmates had agreed to a “bill of information,” which bypasses a grand jury and waives trials, and were sentenced directly to prison.
Lengefeld said Collins had informed him that Ames was instrumental “in making a lot of them happen” with his “groundwork within the jail,” and said the pleas saved the county more than $9,000 so far this year.
In addition to saving funds, the pleas saved an estimated 6,000 jail bed days.
“By thinking outside the box, he has been able to speed the court process, reduce jail space, and save county tax dollars,” according to a citation with the award, which was given for “his efficient, professional and valuable service to this department.”
Collins said Friday she was happy that Ames was recognized, and that the key to Ames’ role in assisting with bills of information is communication. She said that inmates who do not dispute their guilt will often become aware that they can bypass the grand jury and trial process through such a move, and possibly spend less time sitting in jail.
Inmates will approach Ames to let him know they want to plead to such a bill, which amounts to a guilty plea and an agreed-upon sentence. Collins said that rather than ignore such comments, or leave it to the inmates to try to contact her office, Ames takes a proactive approach and will get on the phone to let her know about the inmates’ comments to him.
Collins said that if an inmate goes through the process of a grand jury and a trial, a court-appointed attorney will cost the county $380 to $400. But the attorney cost to handle a bill of information is just $35, saving taxpayers a substantial amount of money. In fact, Collins said two more inmates were pleading to bills of information on Wednesday.
Collins also credited Ames, who has been with the sheriff’s office since 2005, for his people skills, saying, “He’s respectful to everyone, including inmates. A lot of people forget that inmates are people, too. He doesn’t forget that.”