DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The number of inmates in the care of the Scott County Jail has hit a record and it's putting a strain on deputies working the cell blocks and the streets.
"Our jail number today hit 369, which is the highest number I have ever seen in our jails," Sheriff Tim Lane told WQAD News 8, adding that the jail averaged 300 inmates a day last year.
He is now asking the Scott County Board of Supervisors for 10 additional officers: Five correctional officers, three deputies for patrol, 1 deputy for investigations.
The Sheriff’s Office is also asking for a sex offender registry specialist. That position is currently filled but temporary and the sheriff hopes to make it a permanent one.
At the jail, inmates milled around in orange jumpsuits in the intake unit.
The facility has capacity for 363 inmates, but some inmates, such as opposing gang members, juveniles tried as adults, or those tried in the same criminal case, must be kept separate.
Those dealing with mental health issues are housed in the jail's special management unit.
"It's very stressful," says Major Bryce Schmidt, who oversees the jail.
" For example our special management unit, just two to three inmates can wear those officers down pretty thin. They’re in there for 12 hours a day, the officers are. That's why we would like to put a second officer on there, just to have a break or handle those duties."
Sheriff Lane hopes the additional full-time staff will alleviate the strain and cut down on overtime and turnover.
"They’re finding not enough fellow employees to support them in their job. Combined with overtime, it’s truly running them out the door."
The training time for a correctional officer is three months. Sheriff Lane says that his office spends $375,000 a year in overtime at the jail alone. He wants that money to go towards full time employees instead.
The request for 10 additional employees for fiscal year 2020 translates to about $817,126. Scott County supervisors are mulling a tax increase to pay for additional requests from various departments and an anticipated revenue shortfall.
Sheriff Lane concedes supervisors will have to make a tough decision: "Of course nobody wants to vote for a tax increase, and for every employee that works for Scott County, that adds to the tax levy."
But says he thinks he can keep costs well below the request by cutting overtime at the jail and putting them on patrol.
Scott County currently ranks at the bottom in Iowa in the ratio of sworn officers per county residents.
“We all know our crime rate has gone up in last few years, particularly with stolen cars. We’ve also noticed that the violent crime rate has gone up."
"It would make perfect sense that we add sheriffs to the street," he said.