BERN TWP., Pa. — Behind the wall, virtually nothing can be seen, but the Berks County Jail's new warden wants people to see that change is coming.

"Are we using every tool out there that's available to us? Can we work smarter not harder?" said Jeffrey Smith, the jail's new warden.

Smith began his career in 2007 as a corrections officer, with no intentions of becoming one of the brass until he was promoted to sergeant, and eventually, lieutenant. He'd work his way up to deputy warden. Now, he's in charge, after the retirement of former warden Janine Quigley in February.

"I'm here to provide a safe environment for the staff and the inmates," said Smith. "The inmates will eventually be released back into the community, most of them. These are loved ones or friends of the community, so we need to do what we can to keep them safe inside. It's not all about locking them up and throwing away the key. That's not the mentality here."

Smith said he'd like to continue the use of some technologies used during the pandemic and build on inmate mental health practices.

"Berks has been leading the way, in my opinion, with the mental health initiatives," said Smith. "We got a staff getting trained in mental health first aid. We have other programs in place. It's all about changing the mindset."

He's also focused on making organizational changes and ensuring the staff isn't top-heavy and that the entire jail staff is one team.

"I've been pretty consistent with expressing the need for change," Smith said, "and I believe the staff support that idea."

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