Sheriff Hammond Details Difficulties, Challenges At Silverdale Jail

Saturday, May 21, 2022
Left to right are Gino Bennett , chief of staff to the sheriff ; club president Pam Hudson, Sheriff Jim Hammond, and attorney Neal Thompson, program chairman.
Left to right are Gino Bennett , chief of staff to the sheriff ; club president Pam Hudson, Sheriff Jim Hammond, and attorney Neal Thompson, program chairman.

Sheriff Jim Hammond on Friday told Civitan Club members his full experience with the Silverdale Detention Center and how it ties into his $6.4 million budget request to the commission. 


“I got into a tiff with a district attorney a couple months ago who said Silverdale is the most dangerous piece of real estate in Hamilton County,” said the sheriff. “He hit the nail right on the head, you’ve got 1,100 of the meanest people you’re going to find in this county on that little piece of real estate.” 


Sheriff Hammond said it’s been a challenge.

He said it is difficult to manage when you’re understaffed, underfunded, getting it to maximum security, and you have about 150 men living in a small room with no separation.


“I’m fighting the commission on my budget. How am I supposed to hire correctional officers when private business pay more? But I’ve always worked under the premise that I would present the need, the commission would decide what we get and we would live with that.” 


The speaker said for the last 40 years, Silverdale was under private contract and the jail was under the sheriff. He said about three years ago, the county mayor called him to oversee Silverdale’s contract.


“The mayor said, Sheriff, my staff and I just can’t keep up with all the differences in laws at Silverdale.” Sheriff Hammond said, “I reluctantly agreed because I knew there were problems out there at that point.” 


Sheriff Hammond said shortly afterward, he put together a transition team of 15 people who met two days a week. At this point, he said he told the mayor he would inevitably have to close down the jail because of all the damage and it had “reached its point of usability.” 


On top of that, he could not hire enough people to run both facilities because Silverdale was privately owned and not under government rules. He said he knew he would lose at least half of Silverdale’s original employees because they did not have to be correctional or police officers under private ownership and now they would be required to. 


Sheriff Hammond said he knew they could not operate two facilities so they set a deadline of June 1. 2020 to have all the prisoners out of Silverdale. He said his whole staff thought he was crazy to think he could move prisoners in such a short period of time. 


“I think we had about three months to start thinking about moving the prisoners and close it down,” said the sheriff. “My staff kept fussing but I said no we are gonna start closing it, we can't afford to go beyond that; we will move every prisoner and close it by June 1st.” 


And that’s exactly what they did. He said at that time, they knew they had a $20 million bond to build part of a new facility. He said this section will open in November, taking some pressure off the current overcrowding problem. 


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