Officials: Escape shows need for more jailers
Published 5:25 am Monday, July 17, 2006
By By KERRY WHIPPLE BEAN – Publisher
Just two days after a jail escape officials blamed on short staff, Escambia County commissioners on Friday approved four new staff members for the detention center.
The county has actually been working on improving the staff level for weeks, but Wednesday's escape underscores how much the added security is needed, said Capt. James Freeman, the jail administrator. The jail normally has four people to a shift, but only three were on staff at the time.
The county will pay for the new staff - which will cost $124,712 a year - by housing more federal inmates.
The jail will make room for more federal prisoners by moving some inmates on the work release program to a new work center being constructed in downtown Brewton.
The jail currently houses 31 federal inmates, for which the county receives $32.42 per day per prisoner. The state only pays $1.75 per day per inmate.
Sheriff Grover Smith thanked the commission for granting the new staff - and thanked the current jailers for their work as well.
“They've been working short-handed,” he said. “I appreciate the job they do for me and for our county.”
In addition to the new staff, the commission approved boosting a part-time assistant jail administrator to a full-time position.
The jail currently operates with four officers per shift, including two permanent posts, Freeman said. The new staff will allow an additional officer per shift.
Commissioner Larry White noted that every grand jury report he has seen mentions the need for jail staffing improvements. Each grand jury inspects the jail during its term.
Commissioner Wiley Tait agreed that the new staff is necessary.
Commissioners Todd Williamson and William Brown could not attend the meeting but have been involved in discussions about the new staff, Stokes said.
Freeman said he will begin searching for new staff immediately.
The work release center could be open in as little as three weeks, Freeman said, which will free up space for more federal inmates in the jail.
The work center - located across the street from the jail - will have 42 beds.
Right now, Freeman said, only 15 inmates are on work release, although more are eligible.
Freeman said the county did not want to move any more to work release until the security staff situation improved.