ALBEMARLE — Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco took the microphone at the April 4 Stanly County Board of Commissioners meeting to request that each of the commissioners make time to visit the county jail, saying it is overcrowded. He also suggested they complete a ride-along with one of his on-duty deputies.
Often, when a prominent county official wants to address the board on a topic, they will request to be placed on the schedule beforehand. But Crisco put his name on the list to speak during the public-comment period.
“Good evening; I’ll be brief,” Crisco began. “Something that I’ve put off, and I blame myself, but I had a conversation with Commissioner Lawhon. He took time to come by the office and we were talking about a multitude of things. But while he was there, he inquired about taking a tour of the jail just to see what all the talk is about, in terms of the overcrowding and the shortages [of staff] that we have.”
Lawhon then took a tour with Crisco, according to the sheriff, and witnessed the problem firsthand.
“When we were finished, I asked him, ‘Did I blow this out of proportion?’” Crisco said regarding the overcrowding. He then quotes Lawhon as saying, “No, not in any way, shape or form.”
Crisco said that he has explained the overcrowding issue to the commissioners “multiple times,” and he wants each of the remaining members to come see the dire situation at the jail for themselves.
“Basically, what I’m here to do tonight is to ask and encourage each of you as board members to, one, come take a tour of the detention center. Right now, that is a big topic. I know that. But also, not just that, but call me and schedule a time to either ride with our animal protective services guys or just our patrol guys.”
He asked the commissioners to come see what they do “day-in and day-out,” saying that comparing things from when he started in law enforcement to how things are today, “It is completely different. Times have changed.”
Crisco said it would benefit them and help them see a “whole different picture by taking the time and walking in their shoes one day.”
Crisco then walked away from the podium but was called back to answer questions from the board. One commissioner asked, “How about just setting up a time for us to come and do that?”
This appeared to irritate Crisco, who then pointed at the commissioners and said, “I’ll tell you what. If nobody here has my phone number, I’ll be happy to give it to you.”
The commissioners then discussed whether they would go in groups or alone, saying they all wanted to tour the jail and go on the ride-along to see what Crisco was talking about.
“Whatever is convenient for y’alls schedule,” Crisco said. “Y’all call me.”
Before he walked away, the board made sure to wish the sheriff a happy birthday and compliment his deputies on a couple recent incidents.
This issue has been one that was made worse by COVID-19, because many staff were forced to quarantine, and because of a case backlog from the county courts operating largely remotely.
In early 2021, Crisco told SCJ, “I can tell you this; the jail — the Stanly County Detention Center — has a maximum capacity of 131. As of this morning, I have 144. So, our numbers are actually starting to increase as far as the bodies that we have in the detention center.”