ESCANABA – The Delta County Jail is dangerously understaffed. That’s what Sheriff Gary Ballweg told Delta County Commissioners during a special meeting Thursday.
Ballweg outlined a state report by the state Department of Corrections earlier this year that showed the jail requires 20 full-time positions to operate safely. The Sheriff’s Department expanded to 14 employees this month.
Because of the under-staffing, Ballweg says inmates are not being properly monitored for long periods of time. He says it is more of a problem when there are disturbances in the jail or suicide attempts. Seven inmates have attempted hangings so far this year.
Ballweg said the biggest need is to staff a control room to monitor the jail.
Delta County Chair Tom Elegeert said the report was revealing.
“I think some things we can address, some of the tools that they might need over there to make their job safer,” he said. “When it comes to new employees we have to consider that into the budget which we will which is why we are doing this ahead of time. And the possibility of a new jail will certainly be discussed.”
The current jail was built in 1961 and expanded in 1999.
Ballweg says he considers the staffing situation to be a critical issue.
“Our budget is about $300,000 less than last year. That’s the same with all of the department heads. And there have been layoffs recently at the county level so I know there is no money to hire six new people. I’m not expecting that to happen anytime soon but we have to start somewhere,” Ballweg said.
A meeting with court officials and others with a stake in the operation of the jail is being planned for January.