Former admin: Wake County Detention Center was understaffed most of his 3-year tenure

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In May, an inmate at the Wake County Detention Center sent five officers to the hospital after she tried to escape from custody.

A former administrator at the detention center said it was fully staffed for approximately three months of his three years working there. Sheriff Gerald Baker admitted the detention center isn’t fully staffed but said he is working on recruiting more officers.

Former assistant director at the Wake County Detention Center Tommy Matthews retired in 2018. He said staying fully staffed at the jail has been a struggle for years.

“It’s kind of difficult to get someone to stay inside a dorm with 56 inmates and they’re the only person of authority inside,” said Matthews.

Baker admitted in May he was understaffed at the detention center.

“We might not be up to capacity in terms of total staffing,” Baker said in May. “Even if we have to go in ourselves, we have enough people inside this office to make sure that we have support.”

“Right now, we’re in the neighborhood of maybe 26-30, 31 — somewhere in there,” Baker said recently of open positions at the detention center.

Detention officers said their already difficult job is made more challenging by the staff shortage. They also said that, at times, deputies have to come to help out at the jail. Matthews said that’s not uncommon.

“We were doing a lot of overtime with detention officers, and then it got to a point where we needed more than we could afford with detention, so we started to call upon deputies,” said Matthews. “The good thing about the deputies was they were former detention officers who had since moved over to the sworn side, so they were still qualified as detention.”

Matthews said that during the three years he was assistant director of the detention center, it was probably only fully staffed for about three months.

“The jobs started increasing in the private marketplace,” explained Matthews. “People were not as inclined to come to government work. We saw the shortages starting to creep up.”

Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said it is still a major issue and they are in the process of authorizing more overtime so the current detention officers can cover extra shifts.

“It became a concern with a few,” said Matthews. “We had to watch and make sure that they weren’t burning out because we had some that would put in seven days straight for a lengthy period of time, and we had to remind them to take a break from doing this kind of work.”

CBS 17 asked an interview with Baker but was told he wasn’t available.

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