29Aug 2016
Aug 29, 2016

Jailhouses’ Condition Today and Exonerated Case After 28 Years

Overloaded Douglas County Jail Equates Overworked Staff

With a 1,453 bed capacity of the Douglas County Jailhouse, it is considered to be the biggest one in the entire State of Nebraska. The Jailhouse even accommodates excess inmates from other neighboring counties and from the U.S. Marshall’s Office. The scope of custody today is way wider compared to others, with the Jailhouse’s capability to accept from an 18-year-old offender all the way to inmates with murder case charges. With the increasing number of cases received in custody, most especially during summertime, the county jail staff has to work overtime to cover the tasks added.

Recently, the Douglas County Jail had over 1,500 inmates to date and this is the highest headcount of all time. The Douglas County Corrections Director, Mark Foxall, admitted that his office has to require about 10% mandatory overtime to all staff and it has been the situation in the last three months. Foxall also stated that his office’s priority is always the public’s safety while valuing the community’s fund. However, due to the rise of the headcount, he announced that he will be hiring 25 more officers this month to hasten the burden of the current staff.

This crisis has been brought to the attention of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and has assured the public that they are carefully reviewing the case. Douglas County Commissioner, Mary Ann Borgeson reassured that this issue is given high priority to be resolved. The commission is currently looking for ways to lessen the number of inmates that should be housed through utilization of law enforcement and community corrections programs available. They carefully review the charges of the offenders and seek for other ways to put them in the less costly program instead of having them housed inside the Douglas County Corrections.

Hopefully, this issue gets fixed at the soonest, as the massive headcount can seriously affect the welfare of the inmates and the Jailhouse staff in the long run if not addressed.

Inmate Found Not Guilty After Almost Three Decades

In 2015, the National Registry of Exonerations reported that there are approximately 150 cases of incorrectly convicted charges which are a record holder in the U.S. history. Today, another instance of a falsely convicted crime has surfaced.

Johnny Small was arrested in a murder case in 1988 when he was still fifteen years old, found guilty and sentenced him to life in prison a year after the arrest. Small was housed under the custody of New Hanover County Jail located in New Carolina and thought that he would be spending the rest of his life miserably behind bars.

Looking back to that fateful day, Pam Dreher was killed through a point-blank range headshot and Small was pointed to be in the crime scene by an eyewitness. This testimony immediately linked him as the prime suspect and eventually charged with murder. Small’s friend, David Bollinger, who was nineteen years old at that time, testified against Small as well at that time that concluded the verdict.

Twenty-three long years after, Bollinger finally came clean through The NC Center on Actual Innocence, a non-profit organization that helps to the wrongly convicted individuals. He admitted that he was forced to testify against Small in 1989, claimed he was threatened by the prosecutors to be imprisoned and given a death sentence if he will not cooperate to take the witness stand. In his sworn statement back in 1989, he attested to the court that he drove Johnny Small to the crime scene where Dreher’s corpse was found, which was untrue, as he actually driving his boss to South Carolina for an automobile auction at the time when the crime was committed. Bollinger said that he has to make things right, even if his act is a little too late.

On August 11, 2016, the wheels of fate have favored Johnny Small and was taken out of the jail. Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Parsons ruled that there was lacking solid evidence to justify the charges against Small, determining the proximity of the eyewitness to the crime scene is impossible to identify Small leaving the shop. This finding made the evidence weak and does not equate to a conviction. Although there was not enough proof to show Small’s innocence, there is still lacking evidence to press him against the wall for the crime that made him arrived at a decision of acquitting Small until the prosecution gathers enough proof put him in another trial.

Small will still be under electronic house arrest through attached GPS in his ankle and cannot leave his house. This situation will remain as is while the charges are pending for investigation.

Small’s freedom is a state that he never hoped to happen, but it did. He was still a kid when brought to jail and he has already formed his manhood inside the cells of New Hanover County Jail and lost almost three decades of his life. He is now enjoying the life that was deprived of him, but he still expresses his sincere concern to the family of the victim, Pam Dreher. As this update with the case of Pam will dig up the bad memories and will open the wounds again.

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