ANDERSON — The Madison County Jail set a dubious record this past week when the inmate population hit a record 316, Sheriff Scott Mellinger informed the County Council.
The council on Tuesday approved an additional $161,000 to pay part-time correctional officers through the end of 2017 and the funds to hire three more part-time correctional officers.
Mellinger reminded the council that it deleted $250,000 from the overtime budget during last fall's budget hearings.
“We can’t make the next payroll for the part-time employees without an additional appropriation,” he said.
Mellinger said 95 percent of the 316 inmates in the jail were awaiting trial. He said 26 inmates were being housed outside the county.
“I don’t fault the magistrate,” he said of the pretrial detainees. “They are criminals.”
Mellinger said by county ordinance the critical number for inmates at the jail is 240 for the facility, which was designed with 207 beds.
“We’re crying for help,” he said. “The officers are in peril during the three mandatory security checks of the cell blocks. I have had officers assaulted.”
Mellinger said the jail inmate numbers are not going down and are not expected to decrease in the future.
Councilman Mike Gaskill proposed approving $125,000 for part-time help and then providing additional funding in the future.
Councilman Clayton Whitson amended the motion to pay the entire $161,000, which was passed by the council.
“I have no other option,” Mellinger said. “We need more people.”
The council also approved $19,882 for the purchase of a new washer and dryer for the jail and a convection oven.
Mellinger said the washers and dryers are operating 20 hours per day because of the increased inmate numbers and the department was replacing the oldest units, which are more than 20 years old.
He said the jail staff is preparing 900 meals per day in the 11-year-old convection oven.
“When the oven is not working properly, we get behind every day,” Mellinger said.