"This is very odd," said Cmdr. James Buttrey. "This place has been fully staffed and had an inmate population since the day it was open."
The main jail in Downtown Merced is unusually quiet since the sheriff's office moved most of the inmates -- and all of its new bookings to the John Latorraca Correctional Facility outside of the city.
/*Cmdr. James Buttrey*/ said, "That wasn't a good idea, it wasn't a bad idea, it was the only option we had when we lost 24 correctional officers and 5 correctional sergeants."
The county cut those positions as part of plan to slash $8 million from the sheriff's office budget. But the move has also taken a toll on other agencies, which have to travel further and wait longer to book prisoners.
Chief Andrade said, "Well, it has caused us a great inconvenience."
/*Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade*/ says the process now takes three to four hours instead of one. And his officers have had to start citing and releasing more suspects as a result.
"It is frustrating because you know someone should go to jail, and you're having to cite them out and they're immediately out doing the same thing again," said Chief Andrade. "So frustrating, it's like chasing your tail."
This week the board of supervisors approved bringing back 12 correctional staff members. Commander James Buttrey says the goal is to start booking again at the main jail as soon as possible, but.
"We don't have any set timelines because there are a lot of things to consider," said Cmdr. James Buttrey. "There's minimum jail standards we have to adhere too."
Commander Buttrey says even if bookings do return to the main jail in Merced, it doesn't guarantee the process will be much faster. That's because the sheriff's office remains short staffed and only plans to open one of three booking windows. Still, Chief Andrade says it would be an improvement.
Chief Andrade said, "We're right across the street from the jail. So that makes a big difference in time."