There is less than a week before voters head to the polls to decide who will fill the rest of the late Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence's term in office.
For many of the candidates, becoming the next sheriff would be a dream job, so WTOC decided to find out what they envision doing in their first 90 days in office.
Interim Sheriff Roy Harris says if he is elected, he will continue moving forward with the progress made since he came into office in November. He also says in the first 90 days he would tackle a big problem facing the department.
"I've got some very good plans to address one of our major issues here. The number of mental inmates we have, the people with mental health issues, many of them simply should not be in jail setting. We need to develop a center for them to go to,” said Harris. “It is a major source of major liability, plus it's not right for person to be here on some type of nuisance crime.”
Interim Sheriff Harris also says he would look at revamping the training and recruitment program to fill the 40-plus vacancies at the jail.
John Wilcher, a retired colonel who spent 40 years with the sheriff's office, says he would first get in and see what's going on.
"Surround yourself with the best people. Sit down and listen to their concerns. See what they think needs to be done and move forward with that. A lot of people in the jail are unhappy and there's no comradery there. I need to bring that back,” said Wilcher.
He also says there's a few minor things he would fix immediately at the jail.
“I want to open back up the lobby. People come at night to bond people out. They have nowhere to go. It's cold,” said Wilcher.
Kimberly Middleton, also retired, spent 28 years with the sheriff's office. She says her first priorities go hand-in-hand: medical care and mental health.
“First 90 days, my major concern is to improve the medical system or the medical contract, mental as well as the health problem. The current contracted business I have major concerns with, especially with the number of inmates that have died or been critically ill while incarcerated. I don't believe anyone should leave the jail in a lesser condition then when they came in the jail,” said Middleton.
She wants to get rid of Corizon Health and would support reaching out to local hospitals to assist with medical care of the inmates.
“I think this particular contractor doesn't provide adequate healthcare. I think they are more concerned with the dollar amount,” said Middleton.
Former reserve deputy sheriff and current financial auditor, Ken Williamson, says he wants to bring in some fresh blood.
“I will do a nationwide search to hire a professional, qualified jail administrator because deaths and wrongful lawsuits is unacceptable,” said Williamson.
He believes there needs to be significant changes made to get back on track.
“I'll hire a man that has my vision and has my back and will come up with programs and rewrite manuals so all deputies are protected and inmates are protected,” said Williamson.
McArthur Holmes, also a retired colonel with more than 30 years of experience, has this plan.
“You go in and assess the situation. See what’s good and see some things you would like to change,” said Holmes.
He also has specific plans about re-establishing the American Correctional Association accreditation the jail had when he worked there.
“We were very proud of that and maintained it for 23 years. Four years after I'm gone they have discontinued that,” said Holmes. “Recent issues we've seen within the jail is because they didn't have policies and procedures that gave direction and gave a pathway to follow.”
Thursday on THE News, you'll hear what each candidate thinks is the biggest challenge facing the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.
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