Thursday, December 15th, 2016
NEW SHERIFF JAMES GANNON WILL BE IN CHARGE OF JAIL STARTING JAN. 1
The Morris County Board of Freeholders will return day-to-day management of the county jail back to the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, voting unanimously last night on a resolution to put jail oversight in the hands of newly elected Sheriff James Gannon as of Jan. 1.
The county governing board’s decision followed a presentation at their Wednesday morning work session in Morristown by Sheriff-Elect Gannon, who detailed reasons why integrating corrections back under the Sheriff’s law enforcement command made logistical sense. The freeholders agreed.
“It makes great sense to have the sheriff run the jail and to return to what had been a long-time partnership of having the Sheriff and Freeholders be co-employers of corrections officers,’’ said Freeholder Doug Cabana, the board’s liaison on law and public safety issues. “We only took control reluctantly a little more than a year ago because of mismanagement, especially on the fiscal side, that forced our hand,’’ he added.
Gannon, accompanied at the freeholder meeting by Warden Chris Klein and other top county correction officers, said he has been evaluating jail operations thoroughly and plans some substantive changes.
Included are having corrections officers handle inmate pickups from local police departments for transport to the county jail, and having corrections officers take over duties in the inmate holding area at the county courthouse.
Sheriff-Elect Gannon also detailed a series of potential inmate initiatives, focusing on opiate addiction, domestic abuse, and GED education and certification, that could begin at the county lockup in 2017.
The civilian County Administration took over management of the Morris County Jail on Sept. 1, 2015, removing current Sheriff Edward Rochford as manager of jail operations. Rochford is retiring on Dec. 31.
The freeholders, in making their decision, cited ongoing fiscal differences with the sheriff, including excessive raises negotiated with corrections unions and huge overtime increases at the jail despite a marked reduction in the number of inmates.
They also cited the sheriff’s unwillingness to cooperate with the County Office of Labor Relations, which has historically negotiated all labor contracts for the county, and with a general lack of communications on many issues.
The freeholders at that time rejected four labor agreements that had been negotiated by Sheriff Rochford, including two with corrections unions. Those agreements subsequently were renegotiated by the county for substantially less money.
Sheriff-Elect Gannon has pledged to work more cooperatively with the freeholder board.
“The Sheriff elect has acknowledged that while having oversight of the Correctional Facility, he will follow all County of Morris Policies and Procedures, negotiate all Labor Agreements with the County Administrator and adhere to the most current economic package as approved by the Freeholder Board,’’ the freeholders stated in the resolution that passed by a 6-0 vote last night.