Jail picks up for closed detox center

Superintendent: Additional officers could be needed to handle inmates

By Alex Bridges — abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — Intoxicated people poured into the regional jail this past fiscal year since the city detox center closed for lack of funds.

The increase in the number of incarcerations for drunk in public came as no surprise to Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center officials. But the jail may need to hire more officers to handle not only these incarcerations but a higher number of inmates with mental and physical health problems, Superintendent Bruce Conover said Thursday at the authority board meeting.

The jail took in 504 people accused of public intoxication in fiscal 2011, according to information provided at the meeting. Of that number, 157 came in the fourth quarter and 154 in the first quarter. The center had a total 119 such admissions in fiscal 2009 and 174 in fiscal 2010.

The change from 2010 to 2011 represents an increase of nearly 300 percent.

After the meeting, Conover noted the increase was a direct result of the closing of the “detox” center in the city run by the Division of Court Services.

Other trends reported include significant increases in the weekend inmate population. The increase puts a burden on the jail staff during that time period, according to Conover. The weekend population for fiscal 2011 increased over 2010, he noted.

The jail held an average 40 inmates per month with pre-existing mental health problems and 41 per month requiring chronic care. Chronic care and psychiatric admissions made up 8.3 and 8.1 percent of the jail’s population, respectively, data showed.

“Drunk in public incarcerations, way up, and I think we all anticipated that,” Conover said. “But, again, that number when you add the weekend population … a significant number of people that we’re getting with mental health problems and other medical problems, is really generating a lot of extra burden on staff.”

The jail continues to monitor the situation, but Conover warned the center may need more officers to handle the influx, especially in the holding area.

The 14 cells remain full most of the time, according to Conover, with inebriates and inmates under observation for mental health issues, many of whom require constant monitoring.

“So there’s a lot of activity, a lotta hustle and bustle and I’m kinda concerned that we don’t make a big mistake at some point in time,” Conover said.

The number of inmates out of compliance, or held even though they belong in state custody, has decreased from 44 in March to 21 in June. The law states the Department of Corrections must pick up inmates 60 days after they receive the court order for incarceration. The department allows 30 more days for the order to arrive.

“What we did do is we complained a lot and, in a short period of time, the DOC came and picked up a bunch so we’re back down to what has been a more traditional number,” Conover said.

Data also showed:

• Violence at the jail continues to increase from 21 incidents in fiscal 2009 to 49 in 2011 and use of force has started to rise in the past two years after a drop.

• On-the-job accidents involving staff that resulted in no lost time increased from 11 in fiscal 2009 to 18 in fiscal 2010 and 23 in fiscal 2011; lost-time accidents have decreased from five in 2009 to three in 2010 and three in 2011.

• Average daily population for fiscal 2011 was 572. The jail had 558 inmates as of Thursday.