Breaking News
More () »

Mecklenburg County Sheriff shares plans for improving jail conditions

The county jail continues to grapple with a staffing shortage and needed facility upgrades.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office continues to grapple with a staffing shortage and needed upgrades for its jail. With a new budget cycle starting July 1, Sheriff Garry McFadden said he is putting millions toward recruitment and retention efforts, while also upgrading programs offered to inmates. 

The latest data from MCSO shows it’s short 111 detention officers and deputies. The ongoing staffing shortage led to the jail reducing its population last year. 

This came after inspectors found officers weren’t adequately supervising inmates. 

"We get outpaced for money," McFadden told WCNC Charlotte. "You could work someplace else to make more money. You could work from home. So, then, we are battling with recruitment." 

RELATED: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office to shut down juvenile detention center

Sheriff McFadden hopes to recruit more officers with a $3,000 sign-on bonus. Starting salary is roughly $53,000 and all county employees are getting a 3% raise in July, but other agencies pay more.

"We are competing with CMPD, Huntersville, Pineville, Matthews, Mint Hill," the sheriff said.

To retain staff, MCSO is putting millions toward retention bonuses and shift differential pay.  

Having enough detention officers is imperative for safety. McFadden said staff members are juggling this while also trying to focus on medical needs and mental health. 

"There just simply isn't enough qualified staff there to address the many needs that Sheriff McFadden is speaking of," said Kenny Robinson, founder of Freedom Fighting Missionaries. The nonprofit aims to help formerly-incarcerated people become self-sufficient with re-entry programs.

In the past two years, eight people have died inside the county jail. 

"I think the misconception is that they die because of poor conditions at the detention center," asserted Sheriff McFadden. "That's not true -- most of the people pass because of poor health conditions." 

PREVIOUSLY: Mecklenburg County sheriff says conditions inside detention center are improving

To help prevent deaths, Robinson said it takes partnerships both in and outside the building. 

"We have found that we are just able to prevent more deaths by working together [to] increase the likelihood for safety not only inside of the detention center, but also when those citizens return back to the outside," Robinson added. 

McFadden said he’s focusing on mental health by bolstering the jail’s behavioral health programs. He said he met with residents that are in programs last week for feedback.

"We want the session to be longer to give you time to be comfortable and open up," McFadden explained. 

He added the agency will conduct a security evaluation to see what safety upgrades are needed inside. The facility's HVAC, kitchen, and other infrastructure needs are also being updated.

MCSO said it's hired dozens of trainees this year that will help fill some of the vacancies.

Contact Julia Kauffman at jkauffman@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Before You Leave, Check This Out