BRIDGETON — Cumberland County freeholders delayed a final vote Tuesday on a controversial plan to house inmates from Gloucester County in the county jail.
The Board of Chosen Freeholders said they need more time to review final details of the plan, as they just received some of the necessary documents from Gloucester County officials late Tuesday.
Cumberland Freeholder Director William Whelan said officials also need time to complete other portions of the plan, including a section involving hiring preferences for corrections officers.
The freeholders were scheduled to vote on a resolution formally authorizing the plan. The vote would supersede a 5-1 vote of the freeholder board earlier this month that essentially approved the “basic provisions of a shared services agreement” with Gloucester County, according to the resolution on which no action was taken Tuesday.
Under the proposed agreement, Gloucester County would pay Cumberland County $100 a day for each inmate housed in the county jail in Bridgeton. The agreement provides for the housing of between 100 and 350 inmates from Gloucester County. Cumberland officials said the county could, based on the housing of just 100 inmates, net about $3 million that could be put toward annual budget deficits.
Gloucester County would close its jail in Woodbury in July, a move that officials there said would taxpayers about $250 million over the next 25 years. They said those savings include laying off more than a third of Gloucester County’s corrections officers.
Three Fraternal Order of Police lodges that represent corrections officers have filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in an attempt to stop the plan.
The officers charge in the lawsuit that freeholder boards in Cumberland and Gloucester counties failed to follow proper procedures and laws in moving forward with the inmate plan. They charged that the county officials did not consider employment reconciliation agreements and did get the necessary approvals from the state Civil Service Commission.
Some Cumberland County residents also charge that the plan will decrease safety in the county jail and increase crime in the county caused by Gloucester County inmates who would remain in Cumberland County after their release from the local correction facility.
Cumberland County’s jail can hold 550 inmates. It currently has about 440.
Jail officials said housing Gloucester County’s inmates will cause no safety problems.
Cumberland County officials also said they intend to hire 15 more corrections officers.
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