Chatham Co. Interim Sheriff hoping to make jail improvements

Chatham Co. Interim Sheriff hoping to make jail improvements

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Chatham County Sheriff's Office Interim Sheriff Roy Harris sworn in deputies at the Chatham County Courthouse Friday.

Sheriff Al St Lawrence passed away last week. Any time there is a change in sheriff, all current deputies are sworn in by the new sheriff.

In addition to swearing in deputies, Interim Sheriff Roy Harris also spoke to WTOC about some big changes in protocol already getting a start within the office, especially at the Chatham County Detention Center.

The Sheriff's Office contracted consultants to help them revamp policies and make recommendations to better operations. From the beginning of the year to mid-November, 28 officers within the sheriff's office have been released, 18 have retired and 46 have taken other employment, meaning there are a lot of new personnel to acclimate to office policy.

Interim Sheriff Harris says one of the changes involves being more attentive to the needs of inmates suffering a mental illness or other illness that requires medication. Harris says there are 275 to 300 inmates who have a mental illness in the jail at any given time, and that the goal is to keep them stable, not only for their own well-being, but also for the guards and other jail staff.

Jail staff was also recently surveyed to determine the most comfortable way to report staff misconduct, so they came up with a whistle-blower hotline that keeps the tipper anonymous.
Harris also explained how use of force guidelines have also been tweaked.

"We've made some adjustments in staffing. We have made adjustments in our use of force policy, in fact, we totally re-wrote our use of force policy. We've rewritten the forms to do use of force reports," said Harris.

Also, a new Special Watch area has been created inside the jail that will have specially trained staff to help detainees who might want to hurt themselves.

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