The families of over 100 employees at the Gloucester County Jail let their voices be heard Wednesday night. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to stop the outcome they all feared. In a six to one vote, the Gloucester County freeholders voted to close the county jail, sending its inmates to the Cumberland and Salem County Prisons in July. The move will eliminate the jobs of 124 prison employees.
“We’ll have no income, no insurance, no anything,” said Rachel Merks, whose husband is a corrections officer.
The freeholders made the decision after listening to angry arguments for several hours during a public meeting at the Gloucester County Administration Building. Sergeant Jim Fare, a corrections officer and single father of three was one of the many who spoke.
“You guys are basically saying to us, ‘You’ve earned your stripes, you did your time, don’t let the door hit you on the way out,’” said Fare. “Because you don’t care!”
Freeholder Director Robert Damminger says that while he hates to hurt the officers’ families, continuing to spend $28 million a year operating the jail will hurt all tax payers.
“We’re elected to represent 280,000 people in this county,” said Damminger. “This will benefit them immensely.”
Damminger says the agreement will save Gloucester County $250 million over the next 25 years. Steve Newsom, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 165 claims those numbers are inaccurate however and plans to sue the county to stop the jail from closing.
“The fight has just begun,” said Newsom. “Similar to John Paul Jones, we have not yet begun to fight.”
Rachel Merks says that while she doesn’t know how much the county will save by closing the jail, she does know how much her family of four will lose.
“We’ll be losing everything,” said Merks.
Gloucester County will pay Cumberland and Salem Counties $100 per inmate per day. The freeholders say it currently costs Gloucester County $300 per inmate per day to house its roughly 300 inmates.