County to consider more hires for jail

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The Adams County commissioners are considering allowing the sheriff to hire 13 deputies to help ease the staffing crunch at the county jail.

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday stating an intention to consider the hires, double the total municipal jail cap from 30 to 60 by January 2013 and to waive all jail cap fees incurred by the cities since Jan. 1.

The commissioners will make a decision on these conditions no later than Dec. 12, according to the approved resolution.

“After numerous meetings with representatives from the cities … things have started to move in a positive direction,” said Adams County administrator Jim Robinson. “I think there has been more collaboration than there’s been in the past to try and resolve those issues.”

District 2 commissioner Alice Nichol added: “I’m really happy that we have arrived at a place to go forward. I feel that we here as commissioners needed to work out a solution, because the jail is the county jail. It appears to me, as a commissioner, that this is a fair agreement at this point of time.”

Sheriff Doug Darr said he agreed with the conditions in the resolution but believed the timing was wrong. Prior to the resolution’s approval, he asked for more time to consult with individual cities and the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

“You’ve heard me say a lot of times that communication comes first and planning and operations comes second, and this is the perfect example of that,” Darr said to the commissioners. “We should communicate with them first — nobody appreciates being blindsided.”

Darr discussed his concerns with the jail staffing during the board’s Oct. 15 study session.

He said budget cuts forced him to reduce 14 positions, including 12 deputies and two records technicians, and shuttered two county jail housing units.

At the study session, Darr requested funding for 14 temporary positions to fill vacancies from jail staff members who are deployed for military service, on restricted duty and on medical leave.

What’s more, he said the jail will face 18 more vacancies by Dec. 1 because of attrition. The result, he said, is a dangerous combination of overcrowded housing areas and a sparse number of deputies charged with maintaining order and control.

In many cases, Darr said deputies are regularly placed in situations where they may not be able to defend themselves against an individual inmate or group attack.

“While municipalities are clamoring for more space, we’re stuck in a position, where if we don’t do something quickly, we’re going to have to close another housing area,” Darr said. “We just don’t have enough staffing available to cover the housing areas.”