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There's a significant staffing shortage at Denver's jails that staff members say is leading to unsafe conditions

The Sheriff's Department is down nearly 300 deputies, leading to concerns of exhaustion due to forced overtime and safety issues due to staffing adjustments.

DENVER — Staff members at Denver's two jails say a shortage of deputies is creating an unsafe environment at the facilities.

The Denver Sheriff's Department is now down about 300 deputies and the situation shows no signs of improving anytime soon. 

A nurse at the Denver city and county jails said because of "massive holes in staffing", inmates don't get "out time" for days on end.  According to the nurse, who asked not to be identified, that means that inmates can't take showers, make phone calls or get exercise.  

The nurse also said that the sheriff's deputies who do show up for work are exhausted because they are forced to work multiple 16-hour shifts of forced overtime. The nurse said the situation has created a significant safety concern for everyone involved and that incidents of deputies and nurses being assaulted are increasing.

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"All of our leadership team at the Sheriff's Department are concerned about it," said Vince Line, chief of operations for the Denver Sheriff's Department.  

Line said the department is authorized to have 875 deputies but right now only has 586, a 33% deficit. Line said the shortfall has had a major effect on operations.

Credit: KUSA

"It is certainly safe to say that we are making some significant operational adjustments on a daily basis to make sure that we continue to safely operate both facilities," Line said.

Line added that the staffing shortage has meant that some posts in the jails have to go unstaffed at times. He also admitted that sheriff's deputies are now required to work some overtime and, while he doesn't have the most recent statistics, he believes that assaults on staff members have increased recently.

"It really is a balance between maintaining the safety and security of the facilities and the safety of our staff and others who work inside the facilities, and taking care of our staff," Line said.

Line said solving the staffing problem will clearly take time. 

RELATED: Denver Sheriff Department is looking for a few (dozen) good men and women

The Sheriff's Department just graduated a class of 23 deputies and another class will start in a few weeks. They are small steps in the right direction for a department that is still down 289 deputies.  

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