Plans move forward to merge county jails - NBC40.net

Plans move forward to merge county jails

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BRIDGETON -

Freeholders in both Gloucester and Cumberland Counties voted Wednesday night to merge their county jails. This is a controversial issue and many are speaking out against it.

"You earned these stripes. You did your time and now it's...Sorry don't let the door hit you on the way out because you don't care," one correctional officer said at Wednesday's meeting.

It was standing room only Wednesday night when things got heated as Gloucester County freeholders decided to close down their county jail and send at least 100 inmates to Cumberland County.

Prompting many people there to be upset as well.

"There was no talk. No input, its severally going to impact our county and it was very unopened, [non]transparent process," Cumberland County freeholder Fiocchi said.

One former inmate we spoke with says the jail already feels over crowded.

"It's like a bunch of lobsters, a bunch of tigers or pit bulls in one little cage you know someone is going to fight to the death," one former inmate said.

Gloucester County expects to save about $10 million a year, and will now pay Cumberland County per inmate.

"I think it's a waste, if you have empty beds, to not take the advantage of that. If somebody wants to pay $100 a day. I mean it's the same as a hotel price," Cumberland County Jail Warden Robert Balicki said.

That comes out to about $3 million a year, a number freeholders say will put a dent in the $12.5 million budget shortfall in Cumberland County.

Many say this was not studied and that the vote should have been tabled for review.

"There was no discussion, no dialogue," Fiocchi added.

Cumberland County free holder Joe Derella says it had to be done quickly in order to get everything approved in time by the state's Department of Community Affairs.

Derella adds that things can be altered down the line.

"The agreement does have a one year out-clause which means either group is given 365 days to pull out of the deal," Derella said.

Derella says freeholders will meet with PBA officials in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

If the plan goes through, inmates from Gloucester County could be moved over to Cumberland County by July 1.

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