Sheriff tells county commissioners: Put up or shut up

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By Alice Du Pont

Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young didn't pull any punches Tuesday night during the first meeting of 2009 with the county’s commissioners. The sheriff's budget was cut by a half-million dollars this year and Young said he cannot operate his department without that money.

Commissioners voted to hold a Feb. 10 workshop to revisit the budget and find the money to put back into the sheriff's budget.

"If you don't want to support the jail, shut it down, shut it down. Mr. (Bud) Parmer, find the money, find the money. That one penny surtax that was voted on for the jail was diverted to roads. If you won't do what the people voted for, give it back to the people. Since 1988 that surtax has raised $23 million ," Young said.

He added that he has invited several citizens to the meeting so that commissioners could see the faces of victims of what he called "horrendous" crimes that have occurred in Gadsden County.

He said he believes he has done a good job but that crimes will only increase if criminals know he must juggle almost daily with who can or cannot be released from jail.

"I ran for sheriff and the county commissioners and whatever manager you had put the jail on the back burner. I will not tolerate this, period," Young said.

He said there is a lot of talk about the hospital but local citizens can get to Tallahassee for treatment. He cannot send Gadsden County inmates outside of the county to be incarcerated. He said the jail is the largest “hospital” in the county, because every time someone is arrested his or her first stop is the nurses station and some of those arrested have major medical problems.

“We know what it's like not to have a hospital but what would this community be like without a jail?" he asked.

The commissioners, he said, has done nothing for the jail in several years and that officers and deputies are working very hard to answer the 60,000 calls from citizens that are fielded by dispatch annually.

Young told the board that his appearance before them is not a political move but that he intends to force them to take care of the jail. The jail is over capacity by 100 percent or more on a daily basis, he added.

The Gadsden County Jail, he said, is the worst in the state.

"There are people walking around out there like zombies, just waiting to commit crimes. I have told them that I'm going to put them in jail if they commit crimes and I mean that because we need to protect our elderly and we need to protect our children," he said.

Commission Chairman Eugene Lamb, as well as commissioners Sherrie Taylor, Doug Croley and Gene Morgan, agreed that the sheriff's office has been neglected. All expressed support for Young's plight and the difficulties he is experiencing at the jail.

"There could have been things done at the jail but commissioners up here had other priorities. I said it four years ago and I will say it now – we need more deputies. But I didn't have any support. I believe that the majority of the commissioners up here now will support you," Lamb said.