Tyrrell sheriff says prison closure wrong solution to staff shortage

Published 6:59 am Saturday, September 28, 2019

Editor’s note: R. Kevin Sawyer, sheriff of Tyrrell County, issued the following press release on Sept. 27.

On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, at 4:17 pm The Tyrrell County Sheriff’s Office received electronic notification of the temporary closing of Tyrrell Prison Work Farm. This information came not only as a disappointment to this Office, but to the Tyrrell County Community as whole.

I understand that the State is experiencing staffing shortage, just as much of America is throughout its law enforcement community. I believe this is more than a lack of pay, but more of a reflection of a general lack of respect for law enforcement. Our Correctional Officers do a tremendous job with minimum resources.

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Only Government would think that making staff drive an extra hour to work would relieve staffing shortages. The additional expense to already overworked and underpaid personnel will be tremendous.

As Sheriff I understand the danger that understaffing presents in today’s climate. I am not suggesting that the prison should remain open at the expense of safety. Other options, such as reducing the population gang members shipped to minimum custody facilities are viable. This would lessen pressure on overworked staff and reduce risk. Increasing disciplinary authority and remedies available to the officers would allow for more control over inmates who violate rules. The effect would be an increase in morale among the Correctional Staff.

I realize that a large number of arrests have come out of Tyrrell Prison Work Farm. I understand to the lay person this looks like the staff is not doing their job. Nothing could be further from the truth. If no one was taking the necessary action at the facility then the arrests would be nonexistent. These hard working men and women are interdicting drugs on a continuing basis. It should not be news to anyone that when presented with an opportunity criminals commit crime.

I would ask the Department of Public Safety to reconsider this closing.

Sheriff R. Kevin Sawyer

Tyrrell County Sheriff’s Office


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