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Sheriff skeptical about state’s new inmate law

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

 
Of the more than 40,000 new state laws that went into effect across the nation Sunday with the new year, local law enforcement leaders in Lincoln County are speaking out about a particular North Carolina law that’s calling for a shift in where misdemeanor offenders are housed.
An Associated Press report said the new N.C. law holds that criminals convicted of misdemeanor crimes will be booked in area jails rather than state correctional facilities.
While the article noted that state officials expect the law to both cutback on funding and “reduce repeat offenders,” some authorities, including Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter, are skeptical of the new legislative piece.
Carpenter told the Lincoln Times-News that he believes the state is only adding to the burden of local sheriffs’
offices and is not fulfilling its own responsibilities.
“In reality, it is their responsibility to do their jobs and pay for it,” he said.
While he did praise the state for their commitment to reimburse each county that participates in the program, providing daily inmate fees for each agency, he’s uncertain whether or not the state’s budget will allow continuous payment in the future.
“How long this will last is yet to be seen,” he said. “Will it run out in two years or will it continue?”
He also doesn’t feel that the individual agencies will actually be saving any money in the long run. Carpenter noted that the state has already increased its daily cost for agencies to send inmates to prison for various reasons including medical treatment. The cost has risen from $18 to $40 a day, he said.
In addition, Carpenter believes that by preventing overcrowding at state prisons, county jails will experience the same problem and increase inmate populations in local facilities that have already been maxed out, one of which is Lincoln County’s Harven A. Crouse Detention Center.
Last month, Lincolnton Police even had to spread out a drug round-up operation over a period of 16 days in order to preserve space at the county jail, authorities said.
“We can’t house any for them (the state), due to being close to capacity now,” Carpenter said.
“The state continues to burden counties with responsibilities that are of the state.”
His solution is for state officials to either build more prison systems or provide additional inmate funding to local agencies.
At this point, Carpenter is unsure whether Lincoln County will be one of the agencies participating in the new state program. An official county list is set to be released by Jan. 12, he said.

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