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Inmate overcrowding continues to be problem

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Too many inmates, not enough room. It's a growing problem throughout the area and New Hanover County officials are doing what they can to ease the overcrowding. County Department of Corrections officials say 25,000-30,000 new inmates are sent to prison each year. The problem is, there just isn't enough room to hold them. DOC Assistant Superintendent, Richard Davis, says, "We're building just as fast as we can or as fast as the legislature will let us and you've got people that have to be in those spots. They've already been convicted and they have to be put somewhere. That's sad from a societal point of view." And it's not expected to get any better. New Hanover County DOC administrators say crime tends to increase in the summer. The county jail expects its facility to reach maximum capacity over the next few months. Until then, its helping accommodate prisoners normally held at the DOC, and inmates from neighboring counties, until space is available there. "We all realize we have the same problems, so we work really close with eachother. Right now they're housing some for us and we're housing some for them," says New Hanover County Sheriff's Office Captain, Lise Ruefle. Davis adds, "For a while, we were able to let people out of prison early through parole. The legislature changed that all some 15 years or so ago and we aren't able to do that much anymore. But that made people stay in prison longer, so bed space was more of a premium than it was before." With no end to inmate overcrowding in sight, jailers say they'll literally have to wait it out until more facilities are built throughout the state. County prison administrators say at least two new facilities are currently under construction. Those buildings will accommodate 1,000 to 1,500 inmates each.

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