PARIS — Jail Administrator Dana Dillingham asked the Oxford County Comissoners on March 19 to add a full-time, armed corrections officer to the jail’s staff.

“We’re at the point, in 2019, where it’s long overdue,” Dillingham said. “Obviously, there are contract negotiations that would have to be done, but it’s absolutely necessary.”

Dillingham said Oxford County is the only county in Maine that transports inmates without an armed patrolman or armed corrections officer.

“We’re not doing our diligence by sending officers out unarmed, unable to defend themselves, or the inmates,” Dillingham said.

“If you’ve seen the news, you’ve seen the prisoners we have. We have multiple murderers under our care right now,” Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright said. “We don’t always have the added manpower or patrol to cover that.”

Dillingham told commissioners there was “more than a need” for a new position. The officer would work during the day to help with transports and to help relieve some of the overtime burden placed on the corrections staff.

“I wouldn’t say they’re overworked, but they certainly could be depending on how the week goes,” Dillingham said of his staff.

During the workweek, Dillingham said, the staff must move many inmates from the jails to the courts, doctor offices and other appointments, sometimes leaving Dillingham the only officer at the jail.

“If we’re bringing four (inmates) back from Two Bridges (Regional Jail in Wiscasset), that’s two officers,” Dillingham said. “If we’re bringing one back to the correction center in Windham, that’s another officer. We only have a three-officer staff, including myself and an operations officer. You take three of them out to do transports.

“Some (inmates) will go to court in the afternoon, and we’re trying to do transports back while court is still going on. If I wait until the end of the day when courts all over, I have 12 inmates to send back and I don’t have the officers to do it.”

That leaves the jail understaffed and unable to respond properly to situations that often arise, such as medical emergencies. Police departments from throughout the county also bring new inmates on days when Dillingham is the only officer at the jail.

“Quite often, when I schedule an extra officer on a busy Superior Court day, I end up being the only officer in the jail,” Dillingham said.

He said the associated overtime costs add up, and would be negated by hiring another officer.

“I understand this is a cost to the county to add officers, but I think it’s offset by the reduction of overtime and part-time positions,” Dillingham said. “The extra body will not only fill the void. It will reduce the cost in overtime.”

Dillingham said another full-time officer would cost the county between $42,000 and $62,000, depending on the insurance coverage the new officer selected.

Wainwright said he hopes a new officer can be hired by July 1, when the new jail budget begins. Wainwright said the county is already looking to replace a retiring officer by the beginning of May.

“We do have some experienced staff leaving,” he said, “and we have a lot of younger staff. I think we’d do well to start the process for July.”

Commission Chairman Dave Duguay and Commissioner Timothy Turner asked Dillingham to provide a proposed structure for the position. Each commissioner said he agreed there is need for an additional officer.