Safety concerns fuel Winnebago County Sheriff’s fight for more jail officers – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL

Posted: August 15, 2015 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

Posted Jul. 31, 2015 at 4:21 PM

Updated Aug 1, 2015 at 9:26 PM

ROCKFORD — The fight started at the edge of a blind spot for jail security cameras. And Corrections Officer Sam Suddarth was alone with 45 fresh-off-the-street inmates.

Nearly two minutes had passed before anyone realized that Suddarth was engaged in a struggle with an inmate. It was almost three minutes before help arrived. The back-and-forth grappling match sent both Suddarth and the inmate slamming against cement walls before he released his grasp and radioed for backup.

“While other inmates just stood around, he was in a blind spot on one of the cameras so the desk officer couldn’t see him and was in just a ferocious fight,” said Mark Karner, chief deputy of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.

For Karner, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana and corrections officers, the June 27 fight exemplifies the dangers of an understaffed Winnebago County Jail. Suddarth was the sole officer locked in the jail pod with the inmates. He should be accompanied by a second officer, but there isn’t enough staff to do so, Jail Superintendent Bob Redmond said.

Caruana wants to bolster the corrections staff and is working to justify the expense to County Board members, who set the budget. But the board is already wrestling with an anticipated deficit totaling more than $2 million. Caruana’s first budget proposal since being elected asks for a $6.7 million increase to hire more deputies, corrections officers and other staff, as well as purchase equipment and provide training. The nearly $1.4 million request for 26 corrections officers, including two supervisors, surprised some County Board members who have watched as the jail’s average daily population has dropped 33 percent from its peak in 2012.

Despite the recent population decline, the jail is operating with 36 fewer staff members than it had upon opening in 2007, Karner said. The ratio of inmates to officers was 3-to-1 in 2007. It was nearly 4-to-1 in June, when the average daily jail population was 726. The average ratio has been 3.68-to-1 this year.

via Safety concerns fuel Winnebago County Sheriff’s fight for more jail officers – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL.

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