Local News

Cumberland County Jail Running Out Of Room For Offenders

Posted November 16, 1999

— The Cumberland County Jail is working to make room for its growing population, but it is going to take time.

On Wednesday, officials broke ground for a new $49 million detention facility.

The new jail will house 568 inmates, with enough space to expand up to 1,000. It should open in two years.

But sheriff officials say they cannot wait two years to solve a serious overcrowding problem that is occuring right now. So, they are turning to the courts to help clear out the jail cells.

The situation has gotten so bad that inmates charged with murder have to share cells with people charged with misdemeanors.

Because of that, sheriff's officials are trying to get misdemeanor inmates out of there as soon as possible.

Currently, there are 423 inmates behind bars at the county lock-up. It is built to hold just 288.

Major Dan Ford, chief jailer at the Cumberland County facility, says it is causing trouble just trying to keep the peace.

"We end up having fights, and trying to keep these gang bangers separated from each other, and it is a mess," Ford said. "That is why we need a new jail."

Eighty-eight inmates are sleeping on the floors. Forty people in the facility are charged with murder. Dozens of others are facing serious felony charges.

They are sharing cells with inmates facing less serious charges such as domestic abuse and shoplifting.

Cumberland County Sheriff Moose Butler is turning to the courts to ease overcrowding.

He is asking prosecutors and judges for help to speed up the legal process for the less serious offenders.

"If those individuals can move quickly in district court, maybe probation violators, those eligible for bond, they could move faster," Butler said. "These are the type of questions we are going to present to the judges."

Sheriff officials say if they do not get any help, and the problem gets worse, they may have to ship some of the inmates to other counties.

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