Meck County sheriff says he’s already addressed safety concerns at jail after inspection report

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said during a news conference Friday that’s he’s already addressed serious safety concerns at the jail described by the state. He also said he’s working to move hundreds of inmates out and bring more staff in.

This comes after a Dec. 21 inspection report from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, which said conditions at Mecklenburg County Detention Center Central are putting inmates’ and staff members’ safety at risk. The state also said more than 400 inmates need to be moved from the jail immediately.

“It’s a biannual inspection. It’s not an enforcement. It is a correction measure, and we welcome those corrective measures,” McFadden said.

Most of the issues at the jail stem from staffing issues. Currently, the jail is still short 157 employees, and it’s led to inadequate supervision of inmates, fights and staff members being assaulted.

During the news conference, McFadden said they have already made adjustments, including creating a 16-member team to keep the jail safe. He said it’s paying off.

“Since November of 2021, we have not had an assault with a weapon in Mecklenburg County Detention Center,” the sheriff said.

The vice president of Charlotte’s Fraternal Order of Police, Daniel Redford, said the jail is not safe. The FOP filed a complaint with the state about the jail in 2021. Redford said the complaint included many of the issues found in he new report.

“It’s his employees who are the catalyst for these complaints. They are the ones suffering the most. They’re the ones tired of conditions in the jail,” he said.

On Friday, McFadden said he’s close with his staff, saying he even helps out on weekends.

“I saw that nowhere in any media release that the sheriff pushed food carts,” McFadden said.

He blames COVID-19, and the “great resignation” for staffing issues, and said he’s trying to reduce the number of inmates to help.

On Thursday night alone, McFadden said 104 inmates were released or relocated, but 79 new inmates were brought in. He also said one inmate has been at the county jail since 2012 awaiting trial.

McFadden said he has contacted 99 sheriff’s offices across North Carolina to help reduce the number of inmates in the jail, but only five responded with help. He said prisons and jails across the state are dealing with staffing shortages.

“My staff has been working diligently for two years,” McFadden said.

McFadden ended the news conference by stressing that the jail will continue to operate.

“Let me reassure you this, the Mecklenburg County Jail is not closing at all,” he said.

The Dec. 21 report found the detention center overcrowded and understaffed, posing an imminent threat to safety. According to the report, there has been an increase in the number of incidents that have resulted in staff and inmates being hurt. It also said there have been delays in response times when handling those situations.

In a January statement, the sheriff’s office said it is working to reduce the population inside the detention center, and to transfer residents who have been sentenced to DPS facilities. They are identifying inmates who may be eligible for release and are looking to see if other counties can house residents from Mecklenburg County.

“We have been very transparent about the shortages facing the agency and we are exhausting all options to ensure the safety and security of MCDCC. These are unprecedented times. Our staff has worked through the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020,” McFadden said in January. “They are fatigued, coping with loss due to the virus or battling the virus themselves while still fulfilling their duties at MCSO. We must take all of these factors into account, but we will not cease in our efforts to adequately operate our detention facility.”

When it comes to how many inmates are housed at the county jail, it fluctuates from anywhere from 800 to 1,300 daily.

The sheriff has 60 days to fix all the problems brought up in the state inspection report.

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