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Review after latest death at Mecklenburg jail shows more missed safety checks

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A state review of the most recent death at the Mecklenburg County jail in uptown Charlotte shows officers continue to miss a substantial amount of safety checks. It also provides a view of how the jail is handling shifts while so short-staffed.

Russell Fincham, 25, entered the jail on July 3. He was charged with breaking into motor vehicles. Three days he later he died in a pod that mainly housed inmates with medical problems. Officers are required to check on inmates twice an hour. In the 32 hours leading up to his death, officers missed more than a quarter of safety checks.

So far this year five inmates have died. In four of the deaths, the sheriff’s office was cited for missing rounds.

On the day Fincham died, a daily sergeant’s report indicates there were 17 staff allotted to his floor, but only eight were on duty. There were big shortages on all other floors that day too.

The jail has struggled with short staffing. In December, a state inspector said inadequate staffing posed an “imminent threat” to the safety of inmates and staff.

The sheriff’s office says those counts don’t take into account a variety of other officers who help respond to incidents and cover breaks. Those include officers in the investigative unit and those on a team designed to search for weapons and deal with uncooperative inmates.

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.