MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — New complaint investigation findings from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services found the Mecklenburg County Detention Center failed to meet minimum supervision requirements.
It comes after a WCNC Charlotte investigation identified a rise in violent attacks against guards and a lack of consistent inmate supervision due to a staffing shortage. The Fraternal Order of Police also filed a formal complaint with the NCDHHS in December, requesting an investigation.
As part of its biannual inspection along with the complaint investigation, NCDHHS found the detention center failed to maintain enough staff to keep the jail safe.
At one point in the inspection, the findings note that to be fully staffed, each shift would have 80 detention staff working. In a list that follows detailing a records review of select dates in March, April, May, September, October, November and December, the inspection found several days that were understaffed by as many as 27 people.
The detention center now has a March 11 deadline to start fixing the problems identified. A plan of correction must be submitted to NCDHHS by that time, identifying what corrective actions will be made, what systemic changes will be made to prevent future problems, how corrective actions will be monitored, and dates by when corrective actions will be completed.
NCDHHS said the detention center will be required to begin corrective action immediately at that point, and any completion date beyond 60 days from the initial survey will require written justification from Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden.
In response to the investigation, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office released the following statement, stressing the office intends to submit a plan of corrections by the deadline and stick to it:
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office continues to take corrective actions to maintain the safety and security of staff and residents at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center Central (MCDCC). Prior to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services inspection, MCSO began addressing staffing shortages at MCDCC by reducing the juvenile population and reallocating personnel from the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Detention Center to the MCDCC.
MCSO created a new specialized Tactical Response Unit (TRU) to address troublesome areas within the detention center and to enhance the safety and security of personnel and residents. This team of specially trained officers are tasked with mass searches, cell extractions, and deal with uncooperative and violent offenders. As a result of their efforts, contraband including homemade weapons have been found and confiscated within the facility and assaults have decreased.
MCSO has also implemented a new overtime policy to ensure adequate staff is inside the detention center to respond to requests or calls for assistance. Since the implementation of this policy, we have not had personnel working extended hours and have been able to operate much more efficiently because we have an adequate number of personnel.
Sheriff McFadden said, “We are continuing to proactively address all of the issues in the detention center and I’m really proud of the efforts being made by my staff and the collaborative approach by other key criminal justice stakeholders as we work through our staffing challenges.”
On December 21, 2021, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) Construction Section Jails and Detention Unit conducted a bi-annual inspection and a complaint investigation to determine compliance. In response to the inspection and investigation, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will continue taking corrective actions and will submit a plan of correction on each deficiency noted inDHSR report received on February 9th by the March 11, 2022, deadline as specified in their correspondence.