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ICE Cooperation bill includes amendment to add 2 more jail inspectors

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A bill that would require all local sheriffs to collaborate with federal immigration officials passed the North Carolina House this week. A last-minute amendment added something jail safety advocates had long sought — two additional jail inspectors.

That may not sound like a lot. But that would double the number of inspectors the state currently has. Along with a supervisor, they inspect more than 100 of the state’s jails twice a year, follow up on those findings, and investigate after deaths.

Democratic Rep. Carla Cunningham of Mecklenburg County proposed the amendment Tuesday, after sponsoring other bills trying to accomplish that. She said she’s seen how the number of suicides and overdoses has risen in jails.

“I feel the need that at this moment the opportunity to increase those jail inspectors is now,” said Cunningham.

The number of deaths in North Carolina jails has increased nearly every year over the past decade. In 2021, there were 76 deaths due to medical conditions, suicides and overdoses. That’s more than four times the deaths in 2011.

In Mecklenburg County, nine people have died in the main jail over the past two years. In most of those, inspectors found officers did not make the required safety checks.

The amendment passed unanimously. Only three Democrats ended up approving the legislation, with Cunningham abstaining. The bill now goes to the Senate.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.
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