|MECKLENBURG SHERIFF’S OFFICE VIA PINTEREST|
|The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has been asked to reduce its incarcerated population at Jail-Central following a reduction in staff due in part to a COVID-19 outbreak.|
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is expected to remove more than 400 incarcerated people from Jail-Central due to staffing shortages that pose security risks.
A Dec. 21 inspection by the state’s Division of Health Services Regulation found that shortages at the county’s primary isolation are leaving inmates and staff at risk of an unsafe environment. DHSR Chief Jail Inspector Chris Wood recommended Sheriff Garry McFadden reduce Jail-Central’s prison population from 1,407 in a December 23 letter to “less than 1,000 inmates”.
In response, MCSO is working with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to transfer incarcerated individuals to DPS facilities and is working with the U.S. Marshals Service, Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Meriweather, and the Public Defender’s Office to develop solutions. McFadden also made a request to the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association to move the inmates to other counties.
A COVID-19 outbreak is responsible, at least in part, for the loss of prison staff. According to a Dec. 21 COVID-19 report, Jail-Central — North Carolina’s largest prison — 81 staff members had been infected along with more than a quarter of the incarcerated population.
“We have been very transparent about the shortages facing the agency and are exhausting all options to keep MCDCC safe and secure,” McFadden said in a statement. “These are unprecedented times. Our staff have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020. They are tired, dealing with losses from the virus or battling the virus themselves while carrying out their duties at the MCSO: We must consider all of these factors, but we will not cease our efforts to make our detention center work properly.
In a statement outlining steps taken to make up for staffing shortages, the MCSO decided to reduce overcrowding by removing juvenile offenders and reassigning staff – with compulsory overtime pay – from the juvenile detention center and other divisions at the MCDCC.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released McFadden’s findings that “Jail-Central conditions compromise the safe custody, security, health, or well-being of inmates and staff.” of detention”.
Calling the shortage of prison staff “an imminent threat to the safety of inmates and MCJC staff”, DHSR inspectors feared that inmates could be safely evacuated in the event of an emergency as well as an increase in the number of violent incidents between staff. and incarcerated as well as delays in staff response time to control confrontations “and, in one case, medical attention to an injured staff member was delayed”.
Wood wrote, “Due to staffing shortages, it has been determined that MCJC should take immediate action to depopulate the facility to a level that can be handled by the available staff. When the DHSR investigation is complete, this section will recommend a manageable number of inmates the facility can accommodate until staffing levels return closer to normal levels.