Justice Department Frowns On Jail Staffing

The Justice Department says there should be one officer for every five inmates in the jail. Sheriff George Payne says that would require hiring 50 more guards To do that, the sheriff says he presented a staffing plan to the county supervisors in 2000.

"A three year plan of hiring 25 officers per year, I knew we couldn't do it in one year, 25 to three years to get us to the level where we need to be. They agreed with me that year. The second year I asked for the funding and didn't get it the third year."

Payne says hiring the 25 officers would cost $700,000 each year. The supervisors' attorney says Payne shouldn't have a problem coming up with the money, since his budget has increased more than 100% since 1995.

Attorney Joe Meadows says, "The budget for the sheriffs department has gone from 8-million dollars to over 17 million dollars and last year the board passed a three a half million dollar bond issue for security purposes and whatever to upgrade the jail. So there does come a time when you finally say how much is enough."

Meadows says the supervisors have no say how the sheriff spends his budget.

"Perhaps if there could be some prioritization of the funds that are appropriated, well that might help."

But the sheriff says he's not going to take officers from other departments to meet the manpower needs in the jail.

"I'm not gonna eliminate my law enforcement side of the house to put people in the jail, that's silly talk. We've gotta be serious about this."