Picture a hectic, crowded jail in a major metropolis – Hillsborough county’s Orient road jail is nothing like the stereotypical image painted in the movies and TV.
The inmates look like they’re almost complacent with the situation. There’s no yelling or screaming. There isn’t any fighting or tussling.
There is, however, a restraining chair just in case something unusual happens.
The jail booked almost 74,000 inmates last year, which was a decline from years past, but still ranks among the highest in the nation.
The 636,000 square-foot complex has six primary housing units. Each unit has four pods capable of holding 64 inmates each.
And, a little known fact about Hillsborough county inmates is that they make hot sauce in three delicious flavors, with the proceeds going to equipment and supplies for inmates functions. The slogan for the sauce is “Created with conviction.”
So, it’s no wonder the inmates all look so relaxed and at ease – they’d rather hang out at jail and making hot sauce than start a family and work retail.
Sgt. Williams of the Orient road jail explained the majority of people that come through the door are repeat offenders.
Williams dissected the process that each individual goes through upon arrival to the facility.
DUI or drug arrests go through a rigorous observation process that involves the arresting deputy “watching” subjects they’ve arrested for signs of further impairment
In a separate area called the drug recognition room, two glow-in-the-dark stars on the wall aid officers with the signs of use in subjects. They’re able to figure out what drugs are in use simply by eye movement patterns. If needed, the subject is detained until a drug recognition is available.
“This is what we do to keep our families and friends alive,” said Williams.
A perfect example, unfortunately, of the revolving door at the Orient road jail is recent shooting rampage suspect Andre Watkins. According to his arrest record, he’s been in and out for 14 years.
Had the jail tour been around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, central booking would have been a different scene. Watkins screamed and carried on throughout the whole process.
It wasn’t clear though whether or not Watkins would be making the hot sauce in the morning.