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Burbank’s little big house

Jackson Bell

This is the latest in an occasional series on Burbank Police

Department bureaus.

BURBANK -- Burbank Jail guard Dana Kristoff equates his job to


that of a bartender.

“You listen to all of their stories and you sometimes have to act

like a counselor when they want your advice,” he said.

The main purpose of the prison, according to jail manager Tim


Smith, is to hold people arrested in Burbank until their first court


“We get the whole spectrum of things to get arrested for, from

public drunkenness to murder,” Smith said. “They stay here until they

go to court, then they either get released or go to county jail.”

It also houses inmate workers, who are court-ordered to perform

tasks such as washing laundry and cooking meals during their stay in

prison. Another program, “Pay to Stay,” allows people who must stay


in jail during weekends to pay $85 a day.

The jail, which accommodates men and women, contains 70 beds in

seven two-person cells and seven eight-person dorms, including one

for the inmate workers.

When the facility was built in the basement of the Burbank Police

headquarters about five years ago, prison walls and doors were built

with thick glass instead of open bars. Smith said it was installed to

prevent inmates from hanging themselves or throwing items at each



That, he added, has been to the chagrin of the nearby

entertainment studios that often send researchers to emulate the jail

for production sets.

“Warner Bros. and NBC come in here and joke that it’s not a jail

because it’s not interesting enough without the bars or the ratchet

doors,” Smith said.

Despite working at what he calls a “gentler, friendlier” jail,

Kristoff said the hardest part of being a jailer is seeing the same

faces coming in and out of prison.

“It’s like a big fishing game,” he said. “We catch them today and

release them tomorrow.”

And Kristoff said everyone has an excuse, no matter what he or she

does or how many times he or she gets caught.

“A common saying here is, ‘If your lips are moving, you’re lying,’

” he said.