by: DaShawn Brown Updated:
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger hopes to fix overcrowding in the jail and said that it is a critical situation.
Officials transferred more than 20 inmates to other facilities to help with the overcrowding.
Safety concerns in the Gaston County jail are only getting worse as room for inmates dwindles.
“Oh yes, in the last six months, we're higher than we've ever been,” Cloninger said.
The dining hall doubles as a cellblock.
“For this whole year, even before 2017, we’ve seen the rise in inmate count,” Cloninger said.
State inspection records show that in August, the jail had been overcrowded for at least 12 months and marked its second write-up this year.
Staff and inmates are not safe until the overcrowding is fixed, records show.
At least 14 staff members have been assaulted so far this year, compared to eight for 2016.
“I know we have one detention officer who's got a dislocated shoulder, and he's still out,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff is asking county commissioners for $10 million to help with overcrowding by expanding the jail while releasing low- to mid-level offenders on ankle monitors.
“Some folks say, ‘We’ll, they're criminals. They're inmates. They don't need this. They can be overcrowded,’ but if it’s your son or daughter or brother or sister that's in the jail,” Cloninger said. “You wouldn't want them to be treated that way.”
The sheriff proposed expanding the jail at a commissioners meeting in November but a vote never happened.
Commissioners voted ‘no’ to releasing low- to mid-level offenders on ankle monitors.
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