It's impossible to know whether confinement officer Quinton Greer could have been beaten senseless by inmate Deadrian Boykins late last year had more guards been on duty at the Allen County Jail.
But Chief Deputy Sheriff Dave Gladieux believes the nine additional civilian guards the department hopes to hire couldn't have hurt – and will help alleviate at least two other potential problems.
On June 19 the department will ask County Council for the money needed to hire the extra confinement officers – an expense of about $158,000 for the rest of the year and roughly double that for an entire 12 months. If approved, it would bring the number of civilian guards to about 119, who assist the five sworn officers currently assigned to the jail.
That small number of sworn officers reflects part of the problem, Gladieux said.
The department currently provides police service on a contract basis to several local towns, including Huntertown, Leo-Cedarville, Grabill and Monroeville, in addition to resource officers in Northwest, Southwest and East Allen County schools. Department Financial Director Nick Cripe said that the department has not replaced sworn officers taken from the jail to fill those other contractual roles, creating less than ideal staffing levels in a jail that recently held about 700 inmates – just 40 short of capacity.
Gladieux and Cripe do not contend that additional guards would have prevented Boykins from beating Greer over the head with a lunch tray and then repeatedly punching the fallen guard, breaking his nose and cheekbone. But they might have allowed a faster response, Cripe said.
But guard safety is not the only reason to add staff, Gladieux and Cripe said.
The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which takes effect in 2017, could require the jail to add guards in order to protect inmates from sexual assault. And a new state law effective July 1 could create a “huge influx” of prisoners, Cripe said, because it requires some criminals now sent to state prison to be held locally instead.
Gladieux said council should be willing to provide the needed funds because money generated by the department's contracts with towns and schools should remain in the department's budget instead of being used for other purposes.
“We look at this as a 'break even' request,” said Gladieux, the Republican nominee for sheriff and the likely winner in the November election.
“We want to be at a comfortable (staff) level,” added Cripe, who said a starting civilian guard earns about $35,000 compared to $43,000 for a sworn officer..
Council President Darren Vogt, however, said council is likely to defer a decision on Fries' request until 2015 budget hearings begin later this summer.
“They're not a full staff (for confinement officers) now. They're down 10,” said Vogt, noting that the department can fill the 10 positions without council approval. “I'd like to see them get fully staffed before we decide on adding more guards. And if they need more confinement officers, maybe they should look at (cutting) other areas,” Vogt added.
Boykins, who had previously been convicted of robbery and murder, was convicted of aggravated battery for beating Greer.