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County Commissioners Approve Additional Deputies For Jail

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved eight additional deputies for the Dention Facility at their November 13, meeting.

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NEW HANOVER - New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon asked the Board of Commissioners at their Tuesday November 13, meeting for additional staffing at the jail to resolve several logistical issues as well as safety and moral.
McMahon explained, "As Sheriff of New Hanover County, I am hereby requesting additional staffing for the New Hanover County Detention Facility. The current ratio of inmates to officers is 1 to 64 which is at a level that is unsafe and requires an increase in deputy positions. A total of sixteen deputy positions are necessary. I am requesting eight positions at this time and will request the remaining eight as part of the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget process. The additional personnel will add two officers to each squad which would reduce overtime, improve officer morale and more importantly contribute to officer and inmate safety and security."
McMahon explained, "As the detention facility population continues to increase so will the number of inmate assaults on officers, inmate assaults on inmates, and suicide attempts. We have had twenty officers assaulted thus far this year, in addition to sixteen suicide attempts by inmates. The average daily jail population has risen from 493 last year to 572 this year. Presently, on any given day we could be housing as many as six hundred inmates. The increase in population has a direct impact on the risks to which our officers and inmates are exposed."
He explained, "Factors contributing to our increased population include the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011, which placed individuals with probation revocations in county detention facilities at county expense; and Confinement in Response to Violation (CRV), which imposes confinement for 90 days for defendants under supervision for a felony or 90 days for defendants under supervision for a misdemeanor."
McMahon explained, "The approval of additional deputy positions, in lieu of detention officer positions, would allow us greater flexibility in terms of utilization. These officers would be certified to carry a weapon and enforce all laws. Deputies could also be used for transportation of inmates to other detention facilities, to prisons for safekeeping, hospitals, and courts."
The cost of eight positions for the remainder of the year will be $268,760. The cost of sixteen positions for a full year will be $860,032.
McMahon said, "Over the past year the average daily population of inmates in our facility has risen almost at 100 inmates per day. In our general housing unit, the current ratio of inmates to an officer is one officer to 64 inmates. In my opinion that is an unsafe number to be at and I'm requesting these additional positions."
Commissioner Catlin questioned the level of experience for the new positions.
McMahon said applicant age ranges from 20's to 50's. He said, "Right now is a good time. We find we are getting a lot of applicants that have already been through the basic law enforcement training. With the economy, people are looking. So we are getting people with a little more maturity. Typically they are younger officers because they are starting their careers in our detention facility."
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said a member of his church works at the jail and was struck by an inmate.
Commissioner Jason Thompson questioned what it cost to house an inmate per day and how federal and state funds offset the cost.
McMahon said the average cost is $90 per day to house an inmate. He said, "Right now there have been some laws passed and some times we are holding inmates longer now. We are not holding inmates that are just pre-trial."
He said for federal inmates it ranges from $60 to $117 dollars per day.
McMahon said, "We do have the state misdemeanor program where the state jails are now holding misdemeanor inmates. We are holding them now for a longer period than we did. We get $40 per day."
One additional expense recently passed on to county jails across the state is the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2011 that placed probation violators in county jails at the county's expense.
For New Hanover County, that led to an increase from 36 to 100 to 110 inmates with no reimbursement from the state for cost to house those inmates.
The Board unanimously approved of the request.