Sheriff seeking more guards after inmate attacks jailer - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Sheriff seeking more guards after inmate attacks jailer

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The Chatham County Sheriff's office is making a new plea for funds after an inmate allegedly attacked a jailer over the weekend.

Dereck Rogers was in jail on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and fleeing police. Now he's charged with felony obstruction. Deputies say that angry phones weren't working, Rogers attacked the guard who was trying to help him Sunday night.

According to the Jail Administrator Col. John Wilcher, a corrections officer puts out a distress call at the Chatham County Jail one or two times a week.

Wilcher showed WTOC dice chiseled out of soap – and shanks made from a comb, a sharpened piece of broomstick and a piece of pipe -- all seized from inmates in separate incidents.

WTOC also got a look at exclusive video of a female mental health patient, nude, attacking a guard at a work station.

Wilcher says the jail's female population is soaring.

"When I started here in 1974, you had two females in jail," he said. "Now you've got 197 females in jail."

Each of those women needs a female guard. Wilcher says resources are stretched thin, the jail woefully over-populated. Built for 1,224 inmates, it had 1,530 on Tuesday.

The sales-tax funded jail renovation and expansion is supposed to alleviate overcrowding. That project is nearly complete. But right now, the County Commission and sheriff are at odds over how much it will cost to staff the jail.

"We're wrestling now with the sheriff, who is a county-wide elected official, to hold the cost down as much as possible," County Commission Chairman Al Scott said.

Jailers say frequent fights are part of the reason the sheriff wants more officers.

"I have 52 officers in the building, so that's almost 30 inmates per officer," Wilcher said Tuesday.

Those new jailers come with a projected $2.5 million price tag, one county officials say may mean higher taxes. Right now, the commissioners are in a fight of their own -- with the sheriff -- over just how many officers he really needs.

"We rejected his first two proposals," Scott said. "He's working on a third proposal, and we're trying to keep property taxes as low as possible in Chatham County."

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