MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Amid growing violence against detention officers and a critical staffing shortage, a state jail inspection confirmed what a WCNC Charlotte investigation concluded: The Mecklenburg County Detention Center has failed to meet some state minimum standards.
The inspection found that failure jeopardizes the safety, health and welfare of employees and inmates.
"Staffing shortages exist that pose an imminent threat to safety of the inmates and staff at MCJC," a letter from the chief jail inspector says. "These shortages will continue and may increase due to the number of inmates that are housed at MCJC. During the December 21, 2021, semi-annual inspection coupled with an investigation into the recent incidents, it was reported to DHSR inspectors that staffing shortages leave doubt as to whether the inmates can be safely evacuated from the facility in the event of an emergency. There has also been an increase in the number of incidents that have resulted in the injury of staff and inmates. There have been delays in response time providing assistance to staff to control the incidents and, in one case, medical attention to an injured staff member was delayed. Due to the staffing shortages, it has been determined that the MCJC should take immediate action to de-populate the facility to a level that can be managed by available staff."
As a result of the recent inspection, the state is recommending the jail remove roughly 400 inmates. Sheriff Garry McFadden announced Monday his agency has started that process. According to a news release, the department is working on transferring residents out and potentially releasing some "that may be eligible."
"We have been very transparent about the shortages facing the agency and we are exhausting all options to ensure the safety and security of MCDCC," the sheriff said in a statement. "These are unprecedented times. Our staff has worked through the COVID-19 Pandemic since the beginning of 2020. They are fatigued, coping with loss due to the virus or battling the virus themselves while still fulfilling their duties at MCSO. We must take all of these factors into account, but we will not cease in our efforts to adequately operate our detention facility. "
In the months leading up to the inspection, MCSO reduced its juvenile population and relocated staff to help. In addition, the sheriff mandated overtime and reassigned employees from other divisions to address the staffing shortage.
The letter from the jail inspector also cited a WCNC Charlotte interview with the sheriff where he said staff's failure to comply with policies and procedures was a reason for some of the ongoing problems.
"Decreasing the current inmate census will also allow an opportunity to provide necessary training to staff regarding these policies and procedures," the letter said. "It may also assist staff in complying with policies and procedures if the inmate census is at a manageable level."
The state inspection followed a WCNC Charlotte investigation and call for more oversight from the Fraternal Order of Police.