Budget Woes Put More Pitt County Inmates On Electronic Monitoring

More inmates in Pitt County are being released and placed on an electronic monitoring program, one of the results the sheriff says of not getting the funds they needed.

The sheriff's office asked for 26-million dollars, but got a million less.

Sheriff Neil Elks says in efforts to keep both the staff and the inmates safe at the detention center, a large number of non-violent inmates are being released and placed on an electronic monitoring program. Elks says, "We probably have close to 100 people on electronic monitoring that would normally be in jail, so we've relieved some of the capacity by doing electronic monitoring."

Elks says the sheriff's office had to cut four positions while the detention center had to cut five positions.

Here's what they say that means for the detention center and why more inmates are on electronic monitoring. The detention center holds 596 beds. But due to a shortage in staff, only 500 of the beds can be used. And because certain inmates are not allowed to share cells with other inmates, full capacity is considered 460. Just last month the detention center housed 535 inmates forcing several to sleep on the floor.

County commissioner Glenn Webb says with a shrinking budget there was no way to avoid cuts throughout county departments. Webb says 90 positions were eliminated in this year's budget---all of which have been vacant for the last year. Webb also says they saved 40 jobs that had people in them. Fourteen of those came from public safety, which Webb says is a big priority. "It's a concern of mine and the rest of the board that we have this deficiency with staffing."

Webb says, "Safety is our number one concern, with the sheriff's deputies and the jailers especially because they are the ones inside with the prisoners that we're housing in excess of what we would normally house and so we are very concerned about their safety. If something's not working we can always readdress it. There's going to be budget amendments throughout the year, that's not an uncommon process"

In the meantime, Sheriff Elks says the increase in electronic monitoring is just a temporary solution to what appears to be a continuous problem. "I just worry about now, I made the commitment to the citizens and I have to able to make that same commitment to the detention officers and keep them safe too."

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