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All federal inmates transferred out of Mecklenburg County jail after funding dispute

Drone aerial of Mecklenburg County jail
Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office
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Handout art
Mecklenburg County's jail.

The Mecklenburg County jail will no longer hold any federal detainees. Nearly 200 inmates held on federal charges are being transferred to different facilities. Most of them were transferred tThursday. An email sent to defense attorneys says many are headed to a detention center in Georgia.

The federal government long had a deal with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. The jail would receive $160 per day for each inmate held on federal charges. That allows inmates to be close to lawyers and the court they must appear in. But that’s ending because the sheriff’s office says the U.S. Marshal’s Prisoner Operations Division would not agree to increase the rate to $191 per day.

Federal Public Defender John Baker worries about what that means.

“There’s a huge difference between walking six blocks and driving two hours in the car to go see somebody,” Baker said.

According to an email to defense attorneys, a large group will be transferred to the Robert A. Deyton Detention Center, a privately-run facility just south of Atlanta. That’s more than a 4-hour drive from Charlotte.

The sheriff’s office says 143 inmates held on federal charges were transferred today and another 40 will be transferred to other facilities over the next several days.

Baker says even though a portion will still be held in western North Carolina, no longer having inmates in Charlotte will have a significant impact on the processing of federal criminal cases.

“It’s going to disrupt timing of cases. It’s going to incur significant extra costs for all federal agencies here in the local area — and I think it has the potential to delay cases,” Baker said.

The U.S. Marshal Service transferred more than 100 federal detainees last year — a portion of them to Irwin County Detention Center in south Georgia. The state told the sheriff’s office it needed to reduce the number of inmates at the jail because of severe staffing shortages.

Baker says that transfer ended up going well because federal agencies in Charlotte collaborated to minimize disruptions — and they were able to bring back detainees to Charlotte for their final hearings.

“The plan as I understand it is that nobody’s going to be held in Charlotte. And that will be a pretty significant disruption on the operations of really all federal agencies,” Baker said.

In a statement, Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden said:

“It’s not the responsibility of the sheriff’s office to subsidize the federal government with county resources.”

No longer holding federal detainees means the sheriff’s office could lose nearly $12 million in federal funds this year.

The U.S. Marshal Service in Charlotte did not respond to requests for comment.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.