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Cook asks BCC to aid with overcrowding disaster at jail

By Don Coble
[email protected]

Inexperienced COVE SPRINGS – Time just does not go gradually at the Clay County Jail, it stops. The lighting is dim the humidity established by so several persons crammed into a confined space seems to suck the vitality from all people, specifically the unlucky number of sporting yellow and white striped overalls.

The jail is whole. To the rafters total. With so lots of sleeping on the floor, inmates often have to weave a route via a maze of all those who are trapped, bodily and emotionally, by their personal undertaking.

Outfits are draped around handrails because there is no place for storage. There are a several board game titles and decks of playing cards, and if anyone’s intrigued, there is a tiny cart of paperback books. But for the most component, most inmates both lay on their mattresses, slowly but surely pace about the pod or make an undignified trip to the toilet that has no privacy.

It is a depressing area. Then once more, it is jail.

Disorders have become a serious challenge for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office environment. The making is falling apart. The inmate population is often further than maximum ability. The air conditioning sparkles on and off and water pipes leak in the roof.


Although the jail opened in 1972 and has been expanded two times given that, it nevertheless uses a video clip monitoring program that utilizes authentic 8-inch floppy disks that were created in the late 1960s – practically 20 years prior to Pac-Male was produced and 30 many years in advance of the to start with Activity Boy.

To make issues even worse, the company is exceptionally limited-staffed.

“Our staff members has to work in that setting,” reported Main of Detention Administration Christopher Sueflohn. “It’s a really difficult situation for anyone. It looks like we’re often placing out forest fires.”

Sheriff Michelle Cook dinner knows finding hundreds of thousands to build an annex – or superior but a new jail – is a hard promote. The Board of County Commissioners had been provided charts and graphs and they listened to persuasive facts that evidently displays the determined have to have for a important overhaul. They also heard similar pitches from the two sheriffs who preceded her, but when compared to other wants of a escalating county, the jail has not been a big precedence. Immediately after all, it’s challenging to garner sympathy for society’s difficulties makers.

But the county will soon run out of CARES Act money, temporary patches and rolls of duct tape to deal with the dilapidated infrastructure in a building that wasn’t meant to be challenged in such a manner.

“It’s our task to generate a harmless, secure natural environment,” explained Main of Detention Protection William Arnold. “I do not know what we’ll do if we do not get a thing in the operates.”

Like other county departments, Cook dinner is in preliminary negotiations with commissioners, employees and county supervisor Howard Wanamaker about added funds to deal with the complications at the jail. A person of the proposals incorporates a .5 enhance in the millage amount from 8.101 to 8.601. It would be county’s the initial millage maximize given that 2014.

That dollars is for the operation of the company, not achievable growth. The only recent source of funding for repairs arrives from the non permanent CARES Act.

“From Day 1 I have been functioning with my leadership crew and county leaders on this difficulty,” Cook dinner reported. “I have documentation going back again to 2013 when Sheriff Rick Beseler famous at that time there was a need to boost the jail potential. We have kicked this can down the highway for at minimum a decade and that street has come to an conclude. As the county’s populace proceeds to expand our inmate inhabitants will proceed to increase, and that’s the bottom line.”

Ultimately, the jail will run out of floor space for non permanent beds.

Today’s optimum capability is 492 prisoners, but it is surpassed 500 on numerous instances this summertime, like 540 two weeks in the past. The 492 includes the use of “floor cots,” which are nothing additional than vinyl mattresses that are positioned in plastic shells along the walls and in walkways.

“We’re practically packing them in there,” Arnold explained. The far more that are crammed into the facility, the tenser the natural environment gets to be.

In accordance to Penal Reform Worldwide, overcrowding and a lack of privacy can aggravate mental well being troubles with raises in costs of violence, self-harm and suicide.

“They’re packed in there genuinely restricted,” Arnold claimed. “We’ve observed greater scenarios of fights, in particular in opposition to our personnel. It is challenging. It’s an outdated developing and we’re operating on numerous large difficulties.”

Officers really don’t want jail ailments to affect the agency’s Excelsior Standing from the Commission for Florida Regulation Enforcement Accreditation. Excelsior is the greatest rating, and it arrives with a demanding listing of prerequisites. It’s also an vital instrument to manage public assurance and deputy recruitment.

The jail has been pressured to use room at the time developed for schooling and plans to home the overflow.


Arnold said prisoners get antsy when the inhabitants exceeds 80%. Now he can’t remember staying much less than 90%. Clay County has bargains with neighboring jails in Duval, Putnam, St. Johns, Baker and Bradford counties to assistance with the overflow, but those counties have their own issues with overcrowding and COVID-19. At the moment, Putnam is the only county that often accepts prisoners from Clay – and it arrives for a $60 a day cost.

The cost of retaining 25 prisoners at the Putnam County Jail for one thirty day period is much more than the yearly starting income from a new sheriff deputy, Sueflohn claimed. And that does not include the price tag of making use of two vans and deputies for the transport.

One of the largest issues for jail officers is to teach the community about the individuals who are powering bars. Numerous people have the notion cells are packed with men and women charged with minimal-amount drug charges and crimes like and trespassing and shoplifting. That is not genuine, Arnold explained.

The county took a “snapshot” of its populace on Aug. 24, and there had been 495 prisoners. Of those, 469 confronted a mixed overall of much more than 1,300 felony prices, Arnold said, whilst just 26 ended up becoming held on misdemeanor fees.

In spite of the difficulties, CCSO vowed to manage get.

“Under no situation will I launch dangerous criminals into our local community,” Cook dinner explained. “We should discover a prolonged-term answer to our jail potential situation.”

“We function challenging to resolve encounters [in the public], but the individuals who need to have to be in jail are likely to jail,” Sueflohn claimed. “We’re not heading to sacrifice safety for a mattress. We’re not heading to wander absent from folks who need to have to be in jail.”

As the county carries on its history progress, spawned partly by the design of the Initially Coast Expressway, the problems will only get worse, Sueflohn explained. There also are new fears for retaining buy when substantial crowds assemble. Just past Saturday, numerous fights broke out at a carnival in the Orange Park Mall parking lot and across Wells Street in close proximity to Men’s Warehouse. In the course of action, deputies claimed listening to six or seven shots – and seeing muzzle flashes – from two different shootings.


A few ended up arrested, including a 20-12 months-aged Jacksonville guy who experienced a handgun in his lap.

“There’s another perception we get paid by the range of men and women we arrest,” Sueflohn stated. “That does not take place. Individuals in right here require to be in in this article.”

And it is not pleasurable. Final Monday early morning – normally not a specifically occupied working day – there ended up 127 gentlemen in 1 of the D dorms. That was just a few less than the optimum. The air conditioner labored overhead, and it was so muggy and uncomfortable for absolutely everyone on possibly side of the bars.

“It’s not a entertaining position to be by any implies,” Arnold explained.

The difficulties are barely workable now, and delaying the rectification will only hold off the inescapable and make matters worse.

If that’s probable.