I Iove me a good conference. And the American Jail Association's 29th Annual Training Conference and Jail Expo (going on now at the convention center) has the fixings of a good one. Conference attendees are from 44 states, the District of Columbia, several tribal nations and Singapore and Bermuda. There's a vague yet inspiring theme ("Building Bridges over the Rivers of Change"), swag, and of course: a money shower.


Oregon spends more dollars on corrections than on higher education, so I thought I'd see where all the money went. Turns out, there are a lot of different gizmos you can buy for your prison, at very, very high cost.

We'll start with the classic problem: you need furniture for your prison that can't be taken apart. The parts could be used as weapons or hiding spaces, or flushed down the toilet (see upcoming product). Norix Intensive Use Furniture has chairs, beds, even 5-seater-individual-stool picnic tables with checkerboards on top, that are solid and surprisingly comfortable solutions. You can get a $400 desk, a $600 lounge table—really not unreasonable for furniture that needs to be indestructible by creative means, easy to clean, and comfortable(ish).

There are more exciting, unique, and expensive things after the jump.

My next adventure was into the changing world of prison visititation. Strike industries have been working since 1995 on video visitation infrastructure. Prison visits require staff to escort prisoners from one part of a facility to another, or bring visitors such as family members, clergy or lawyers into the facility. Video visitation allows jail managers to set up a visitation station where the prisoners already are, at a cost of $3000-$7000 a unit. Strike VP Michael Black recommends 1 unit per 20 inmates. The inmates can then talk to their visitors, who are located at another facility where there are also visitation kiosks set up (no, not through Skype at home... that would be cool, though.) The calls can be recorded, if inmates and visitors are informed, and Black estimated that 60 percent of clients did record at least a portion of the calls made through their visitation infrastructure.

I know you're curious about my comment earlier about flushing things down toilets. It is a prison problem: people flush things-"even bedsheets" down the toilet, and that's just going to clog everything up. Fortunately, you no longer need a separate chopper to rid your pipes of bedsheets or whatever else is being flushed down the waste hole, thanks to Vaughan Co., Inc.'s chopper pump. Thank God there's the rotomix, a $12,000-$15,000 piece of equipment that pumps and chops at the same time! There was a demonstration, in which the nice salesman fed rope and plastic into the machine, which created a fine rope-and-plastic colored sediment that rose to the top of the water on the other side. There are lots and lots of applications. Seriously.

Aurora Ministries was not selling anything at the conference: just advertising their service as a producer and distributer of free resources for correctional chaplains of the christian persuasion. The Florida-based company also hosts conferences and training seminars for chaplains, "promoting effectiveness in ministry." Aurora Ministries' pamphlets weren't fancy and their booth wasn't sleek, but the message really did seem genuine: "Helping chaplains bring God's light to those who sit in darkness."