Pasco sheriff wants more space, staff at Land O'Lakes jail

If you get arrested in Pasco County, you'll be sleeping on the floor.

Detention deputies say there's no more room in the bunks. Kitchen, laundry and medical services at the Land O'Lakes jail are at capacity. The detention staff is vastly outnumbered. If the jail population keeps rising and available space stays the same, deputies say, the jail could be facing human rights violations.

The Sheriff's Office presented its wish list Friday afternoon to the county's Public Safety Council.

In the past month and a half, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco has sent two letters to the County Commission outlining conditions at the jail:

• Average daily population: 1,451

• Number of permanent beds at the jail: 1,432

• Number of inmates living in temporary housing: 415

• Predicted jail population in 2015: about 1,700

Capt. Ray Revell, administration support division commander at the Sheriff's Office, said kitchen and laundry services at the jail have already reached capacity. The inmates who are left to sleep in cots on the floor — 279 on Thursday night, when the population spiked higher than average — pose civil rights concerns for the jail, he said.

Florida Model Jail Standards mandate that "single cells shall contain a minimum of 63 square feet of floor space." Floor cots take up that floor space, Revell says, and more inmates means more cots.

Overcrowding also creates safety concerns. Revell said American Correctional Association standards suggest a ratio of one deputy to 64 inmates per holding block. The ratio at the jail now, Revell said, is nearly double: one deputy to 112 inmates.

Nocco has proposed a two-step solution. For the budget year starting Oct. 1, he will request funding to staff the now-vacant third floor of the Land O'Lakes jail. The third floor was part of the jail expansion built in 2009, but the county has saved money by not using it.

Of the 415 inmates living in some form of temporary housing, 256 would be given permanent bed space if the third floor is staffed and opened, Nocco said in one of his letters to the commission. Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin would not say how many detention officers and other staff would be hired or how much money the Sheriff's Office will request.

In addition, Nocco said, the only way to keep up with the population will be to start construction on a new annex to the jail. He did not specify the cost or the size of that addition. He said in the meeting Friday that it should "absolutely" be a higher budget priority than a new central Pasco courthouse, a $28 million project for which the county is soliciting bids.

Nocco said the jail annex probably will go into his budget request for 2014-15.

"We're going to have to build," Maj. Ed Beckman said after Friday's meeting. "It's inevitable."

Contact Alex Orlando at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco sheriff wants more space, staff at Land O'Lakes jail 04/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 9:56pm]

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