Cleveland county jail sees overcrowding issues after back-to-back hurricanes

Jail overcrowded from hurricane evacuees

CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Inmates and correctional officers in Cleveland County have had a tough couple of weeks due to overcrowding issues that stem from both Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

“If I had a magical solution, I’d wave my wand and we would have another jail,” said Major Joel Shores with the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office.

If only it were that simple, maybe the hundreds of inmates inside Cleveland County’s jail wouldn’t have felt smushed inside jail cells during the two most recent hurricanes.

Ava Gash has a cousin who is being held here in Cleveland has been given constant updates about her family member's living situation.

“I think it was unsafe. Unsafe for the prisoners as well as the correctional officers,” said Gash.

At one point there were 12 or more men in one cell with only six beds. This all became an issue as those strong storms were huge safety concerns. To avoid dangerous and possibly deadly situations, inmates were shuffled to different jails throughout the state. Cleveland county was one location to house extra bodies.

“Sleeping side by side with another inmate...I didn’t think that was right,” Gash continued.

“When you have people in a crowded situation, tempers flare, but we made it through it,” said Major Shores, who also believes those living arrangements were bad for both inmates and officers.

Officials spent countless time trying to coordinate with other jails who had some space to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Several busloads of inmates have been shipped to Cherokee county as of Tuesday, which was comforting for Gash.

“It does make me feel better,” Gash confirmed.

Major Shores noted that he had other family members who called with concerns too and he wants to make it known that there were no mistreat issues. All inmates were fed and if needed, were seen by medical staff.

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