News: IMSO visits jail, learns about US justice
Story by Staff Sgt. Candice Harrison
EL PASO, Texas — The International Military Students Office from the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, visited the El Paso County Jail Annex Feb. 4 to learn about the American justice system.
The tour of the facility is part of IMSO’s Field Studies Program which provides international USASMA students a better understanding of United States’ people, political systems, military, institutions and way of life through visits to various establishments throughout the country.
Detention Officer Luis Trevino, who has been with the El Paso County Sherriff’s Office for more than 17 years, began the tour by giving the students some background information.
“Under the constitution, it is the duty of the sheriff to remand jails,” said Trevino. “If you look under the United States Constitution, there are only two recognized law enforcement officials, the sheriff and the constable.”
After learning about the rich history of the sheriff's office, the students embarked on a walking tour of the jail facility.
“This jail is medium to maximum security,” explained Trevino. “We house some of the roughest offenders, some of the most violent offenders.”
He also mentioned that seven death-row inmates were awaiting trial at the annex.
While inmates of different security levels are housed while awaiting court dates, they are segregated into different pods. The students were not permitted to view the living areas of the pods to protect the privacy of the inmates, but they visited the intake and temporary holding areas, the kitchen, medical treatment facility and law library.
The students showed their interest throughout the tour by asking questions at each area in the annex. Questions ranged from “How many inmates can be housed here?” to “Do you use masks like they use in Silence of the Lambs?”
The understanding of justice systems varied from student to student, but the detention officers answered all questions allowing everyone to gain a better grasp of what happens at the jail annex.
“As a command sergeant major of a Military Police Battalion I have knowledge about law enforcement agencies, so I was really pleased to visit the sheriff’s department,” said Sgt. Maj. Martin Holko, of the Slovak Republic. “In Slovakia, we have quite a different police system overseeing the public order.”
Knowing the differences between their own country’s justice system and that of the U.S. helps the international students understand the country that is their home for the nearly year-long schooling at USASMA. They also get to see some of the similarities.
“In general everything is the same,” said Master Sgt. Filip Petricusic from Croatia. “Crime is crime, and we treat it the same way.”
At the end their time at the annex, Master Sgt. Hielke Simon Kootstra, from the Netherlands, presented Trevino with a plaque and a coin in appreciation for the tour.
In his speech, Kootstra said he enjoyed seeing the inside of the jail annex and learned a lot, but he preferred to not have an extended stay at the facility.