Candidates for sheriff say jail crowding a problem

Apr. 24, 2014 @ 09:28 AM

The News-Topic sent each of the candidates for sheriff the same set of questions. Over the coming days we will run their answers. Individual responses have been edited because of space limitations.

The Caldwell County Detention Center has been over capacity for a while, and inmates are being shipped, at the county’s expense, to other jails in the state. What concerns does this raise for you, and what if anything can the sheriff’s office do in response?

Sheriff Alan Jones, incumbent since 2007: “Besides the added expense in housing the inmates in other counties, we have to be extremely careful while transporting inmates back and forth for court and other required appointments for security reasons. These issues also affect our fuel budget and vehicle budget, along with added overtime for the officers. Although we have needed to increase our funding for housing inmates out of the county, we have managed our budgeted resources without requiring additional funding for fuel, vehicle maintenance and officer overtime.

“We currently have a contract with Alexander County guaranteeing us 35 male beds to help the (Caldwell) jail remain within the 185-bed capacity. Housing inmates at other facilities is done through agreements with other sheriffs as available bed space allows. We make every effort to keep the inmates as close to Caldwell County as possible in an effort to better manage our resources while not creating any additional hardship for the families of the incarcerated individuals.

“Our electronic monitoring system is a program allowing for the management of pretrial detainees without over-extending the jail resources. State law requires an individual to post a secured bond before being admitted to the program, and this has become a consistent hurdle for detainees attempting to make bond with the recent changes to the application of bonds by the judges as law requires. We continually work closely with the other law enforcement agencies, judicial branches and department of social services to expedite the process of an inmate’s case through the court system without jeopardizing the citizens of Caldwell County.”

Lance Wilson, N.C. Highway Patrol trooper: “The reason our detention center stays full is not solely based on the number of arrests the department is making, as our current sheriff leads you to believe. What is failed to be made mention of is the number of federal inmates our detention center houses, which has nothing to do with our arrest rate and skewed numbers. In order to reduce the population, we must establish and maintain a close relationship with the district attorney’s office. We must work diligently and sufficiently, and provide their office with strong cases and in a timely fashion in order to expedite the process, just as the district attorney plans to do as does the other candidates running for that office.

“We must also search for an alternative method for the low-risk inmates. The electronic monitoring device or house arrest program is a beneficial program if it is utilized correctly. With proper training, monitoring and, most importantly, restoration of trust within this program, it ca be effective.

“We have to remember, prevention is the solution, not necessarily additional capacity. What we have in Caldwell County is not only a detention center problem, it is an overall unsuccessful and program-exempt, reactive system.”