Sheriff talks jail issues, homelessness with Republican women

Jan. 10—Insults, ridicule, spit and human waste are a few of the things thrown at jail guards daily, not to mention the rare jail takeover attempt, Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump told the Golden Isles Republican Women on Monday.

The 79 jail guards — 30 less than the 109 positions budgeted for the jail — don't get enough recognition for what they do every day, Jump believes, so he took the time at the political club's monthly meeting at Bennie's Red Barn to provide some.

The Glynn County Detention Center can hold over 600 people, but as of Monday the population stood at around 404, he said, crediting Brunswick District Attorney Keith Higgins for keeping the population as low as it is. Most were from Glynn County, but Jump said 20 were from Camden County, 18 from Burke County and a handful from Appling, Jeff Davis, Telfair and McIntosh counties, among others.

Fifty of the cells in the jail are devoted to holding people for the U.S. Marshal Service, which pays the Glynn County Sheriff's Office to hold people.

Inmates are known to be an unruly bunch, but the group of 18 from Burke County gave detention center staff real trouble when they were brought in a few weeks ago, he said.

Burke County is near Augusta-Richmond County, he said, which is a "paradise for gangbangers," he said. The jail in Burke had trouble controlling the population there, so Jump agreed to take some off their hands. They were used to running the joint, but Jump said that didn't fly in Glynn County.

"They tried to control that pod area. They lost," Jump said.

The next day, the inmate who was leading the group apologized and offered a truce, he said.

While that was an unusual instance, jail guards deal with disrespect and have filthy words and substances cast at them daily. Despite that, he said the sheriff's office tries its best to help people better themselves. The jail offers opportunities for inmates to seek training and education, along with social services. It can't make them take advantage of the opportunities, however.

His budget is around $14 million this year, which includes the cost to run the jail, provide security for the Glynn County Courthouse and pay everyone involved. It also includes the cost of the educational programs and medical services for all 404 inmates.

Jump said he tries to save money where he can. A partnership with Coastal Community Health Services has been a blessing. A traffic unit that patrols the interstate, he said, offsets some of the budget. Seized funds go toward training and equipment.

The agreement with the Marshals use of the jail once brought in $1 million a year in revenue, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to drop to $500,000 in 2021.

Jump's point was simple, and he made sure the two Glynn County commissioners attending the meeting — Sammy Tostensen and Walter Rafolski — heard it.

"If you don't support law enforcement, your county will go to crap in a heartbeat," Jump said.

He also discussed the issue of homelessness with the club. It's not an issue he's blind to.

"I was leaving an event last night, and every bench on Gloucester Street (had) somebody laying on it," he said. "I felt bad for them. They need help and the answer isn't jail."

Jump said he doesn't want to take up space in the jail with people whose only crime is being homeless. So while serving warrants at homeless encampments, his deputies will often take note of children and veterans they run into and work with the Department of Family and Children Services and the U.S. Veterans Administration to get them help.

Deputies work with medical providers and Gateway Behavioral Health Services to get help for people with medical issues. A state law passed last year gives deputies more leeway and will create new avenues to help people with mental illnesses, especially among the homeless, he said.