Courts & Crime

N. Carolina county seeks way to ease jail overcrowding

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leaders in North Carolina's Union County are seeking state help in dealing with their overcrowded jail.

The cash-strapped county wants to use a former state prison to help ease its space crunch. At the same time, the county is reassessing jail population projections to see if it needs to proceed with plans to build a new jail, a move that could cost about $65 million.

The county jail in Monroe, built in 1994 for 240 prisoners, has been considered full for the past year, Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. It housed 272 people this week, he said, with 46 prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

"Certainly we've got to plan to fix the jail population problem," Cathey said.

The state closed a minimum-security prison in Monroe last October, one of several prisons shut down because of budget cuts, N.C. Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said. The agency is considering the sheriff's request, but under state law, it also must study the feasibility of establishing probation revocation centers at closed prison facilities.

Cathey said the state prison can hold up to 80 people. The minimum-security prison was built in the 1930s and would need updating if the county uses it.

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