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Officials Say Wake County Jail Is Dangerously Overcrowded

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Until recently, violent confrontations between inmates and officers rarely happened at the Wake County Jail. But in the past four months it has happened six times. It's a place where gang members, first-time offenders, and people who are just trying to do their job must co-exist 24 hours a day.

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"There was not a day that I came in here that (I wasn't nervous) but that's a good thing," said jail officer William Thomas.

But sometimes, a dangerous inmate can catch even the most experienced guard off-guard. The Wake County Sheriff's Office said that's what happened when Julian Branch struck a patrol officer over the weekend.

"We try to take every safety precaution we can," said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.

In his three years as sheriff, Harrison has seen six cases in which inmates have injured jail officers. But four of those violent episodes have happened in the past six months, and he blames overcrowding.

"When you have more people, you have more problems," said Harrison.

The Wake County Jail has 480 beds, but 780 inmates are actually stuffed in the jail. And it's not just Wake County -- in Johnston County, the sheriff says the jail is supposed to hold 191 inmates, but it actually houses an average of 225.

There are plans to build a new Wake County Jail. But some law enforcement officials say the more jails build, the more people fill them.


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