01/27/09 — Jail space limits drug arrests in county raid

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Jail space limits drug arrests in county raid

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 27, 2009 2:02 PM

The Sheriff's Office arrested 15 alleged drug offenders Monday morning -- people who would have probably been picked up earlier if not for an overcrowded jail.

But authorities said court officials worked hard to keep the jail population at an even keel, although the figure is still far above the jail's listed occupancy.

The jail population at the start of Monday was 262, or about 62 people over the official occupancy limit.

And that was before the Sheriff's Office began its roundup of accused drug offenders -- a list of 43 people.

At a morning meeting, Sheriff Carey Winders expressed doubt that the jail would be able to hold everyone should drug agents come back with everyone on that list.

Winders said the roundup has even been put off a few times because authorities were worried about the jail population.

"We have postponed it several times," the sheriff said. "That's bad to say when you've got warrants hanging out there, because you didn't have room in the jail.

"(But if) you throw in another 40, that's going to be over 300," Winders said.

Court officials saw the problem, too, however, and moved quickly to process the offenders, Sheriff's Office officials said.

"Right now, we're back down to 264 (inmates)," said Capt. Fane Greenfield, who helps to oversee the county jail. "The courts have really helped us today, and the magistrates have really helped us."

Wayne County magistrates set an unsecured bond for some alleged offenders, Greenfield said, which also helped keep the population down.

Greenfield was complimentary of new judges taking office, saying he noticed "a lot of people going to court."

But Greenfield also said he hopes the county will decide to keep its "jail liaison" position, which has not been refilled since the former occupant was fired for allegedly falsifying time cards.

County officials complained that Corin Craft, the person who formerly held the job, also campaigned for her supervisor, former Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell, while on the county clock.

County officials said they canceled Ms. Craft's contract through her employer, Mega Force Staffing Services, for the allegedly falsified time cards.

Despite the turbulent political waters surrounding the situation, Greenfield said the position seemed to help control the jail population.

"When that position was here, I felt like it was helping us. I felt like it would be a good position to keep," Greenfield said.

In the meantime, the jail still has mattresses on the floor because of the overcrowding.

Greenfield said the number of inmates must be reduced to around 220 to get mattresses off the floor. But inmates still have to double-occupy beds in that situation, the captain said.