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Budget would address jail staffing

By Justin Reedy

Clayton County's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes funding for more staff in the county jail, but Sheriff Stanley Tuggle says that isn't enough to keep the facility fully staffed.

Tuggle drew fire earlier this year from county officials when he exceeded his budget for overtime paid to his deputies and correctional officers. But the Clayton County sheriff claims the overtime was necessary since the county jail is so drastically understaffed.

Tuggle requested more than 100 additional staff for his department n including 90 correctional officers to staff the jail nin the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1. But county budget writers only allocated 12 new positions for the Sheriff's Department, which they say will allow the department to staff another "pod" within the jail which had previously been left vacant.

"(Tuggle is) squeezing everybody into one pod in the jail right now," said Crandle Bray, chairman of the commission, at a recent budget workshop. "He needs additional people to guard the number of inmates he has in that jail."

Though Tuggle didn't get as many staff as he requested, he was glad to get 12 new correctional officers budgeted for next year, as well as a $200,000 increase in his overtime budget for covering understaffed situations.

"It's going to help our situation right now," Tuggle said. "With the overtime funding and the 12 new people, we're going to work to get the jail working as well as possible."

However, Tuggle has expressed concern that the jail, which is housed at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center south of Jonesboro, could be dangerous for inmates and officers alike because it isn't fully staffed.

"(The additional funding this year) still doesn't completely address the jail staffing issue," Tuggle said. "We'll come back to that in the next budget, and the budget after that, until it gets addressed."

Commissioner Charley Griswell has been outspoken in his criticism of Tuggle's spending, and has called for a review of Sheriff's Department operations to ensure it isn't duplicating services provided by the Clayton County Police Department.

"We need to make sure we're not duplicating service, so we can afford to put more police on the street," Griswell said at the commission's budget workshop last week.

The proposed budget includes spending increases for other public safety and law enforcement operations, as well, including:

? The addition of three new detective positions to the county Police Department, as well as replacing 32 vehicles for the department.

? The addition of one officer to the county Narcotics squad.

? The purchase of two new ambulances for the county Emergency Medical Services department.

The commission will hold its first public hearing on the proposed budget at its meeting tonight, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the county Administration Building, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro. The county is required to hold two public readings of the proposed budget before it can approve the document.