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Nocco wants staff to open vacant jail section

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Published:   |   Updated: July 23, 2013 at 02:20 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY - Sheriff's office officials hope to convince Pasco County commissioners to hire more staff toward relieving overcrowding at the jail in Land O'Lakes.

As of Tuesday, 358 prisoners slept in temporary bunks because of the lack of beds, explained Ed Beckman, major of court services for the sheriff's office.

The jail population stood at 1,576 on Tuesday, or about 28 percent over capacity.

Sheriff Chris Nocco included $1.855 million for more jail staff in his budget request for the 2014 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

A three-story jail expansion building had opened in fall 2009. Inmates moved into the first two floors. However, the third floor remained vacant until enough county funds became available to hire employees to supervise the extra space.

Commissioners have the final say on the amount of budgets. They are scheduled to meet with Nocco at 10 a.m. Aug. 6 in Dade City to review the sheriff's request, according to County Administrator Michele Baker.

By press time, commissioners had not yet responded with reactions to extra jail personnel.

Even if the third floor opens, capacity would go up to 1,432 beds, Beckman observed. The higher capacity would still fall short of the average number of prisoners, which fluctuates on any given day.

The average number of prisoners has swelled each year, sheriff's office records show.

The percentage of women incarcerated continues to increase, Beckman pointed out.

On Tuesday, 381 women were behind bars at the Pasco jail, or roughly 20 percent of the total number of inmates.

Ideally, the jail should have one deputy per 64 prisoners, Beckman said. The Pasco jail is far above that industry standard, Beckman said.

"The propensity for incidents always increases" from overcrowding, Beckman commented during the phone interview.

The sheriff's office would like to hire four sergeants, four corporals, 26 control room operators and six licensed practical nurses to oversee the third floor, Beckman reports.

The control room personnel would be civilian support staff, rather than sworn detention deputies, Beckman said. That trimmed about $600,000 off the budget request for the additional workers. Civilian workers would free some deputies for other duties.

The sheriff's office already makes limited use of the third floor now through overtime pay for current employees, Beckman reports.

Beckman, in part, attributes the rising number of inmates to Nocco's emphasis on intelligence-led policing.

"It's working," and deputies are arresting more people and solving more crimes, Beckman said.

"We can target that 6 percent that are doing 60 percent of the crime," Beckman said about ILP methods.

Other circumstances can contribute to jail overcrowding. Courts vary on how quickly bail is set or complicated cases are resolved, he said.

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