EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Dozens of inmates and hundreds of others make their way through the Eau Claire County Courthouse every day, but because of funding, there are just four deputies or fewer to ensure safety.
Over the past twelve years, the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department has seen the number of bailiffs diminish from seven to four.
“Budget cuts had to come some place and unfortunately we looked at reduction for our bailiffs,” Sheriff Ron Cramer said.
“Over the years, since 2002, we've lost staffing in that area. Unfortunately, it does have an impact on the courts, as far as our movement of inmates to the courts. There are times that we just can't leave a courtroom because we have an inmate with the bailiff and if something happens in the courthouse, we're not able to respond.”
Cramer said without additional security like metal detectors at the courthouse, bailiffs have been looking for, and finding people passing contraband to inmates, and even weapons.
He said bailiffs have picked up hundreds of people with warrants and they're watching for any wrongdoing.
“On a pretty regular basis, we've had to ask people to leave the courthouse that they've tried to intimidate witnesses outside of the courtroom, or even in the court.”
Cramer said it's not always the inmates who can raise safety concerns for the public.
“Taking children away from a family or relocating them to a foster home, divorces ... It can get quite heated at times.”
Cramer said he knows that adding more bailiffs is unlikely with the current budget, but he would like to see a deputy replace a sergeant in the courthouse.
“There are other issues that we really want the deputy sheriff in place of the supervisor.”
“I'm very proud of the fact that our co. Board has supported at least the number of people we have, but I can't go any further, lower numbers than we have at this point.”
Sheriff Cramer said using video conferences for more appearances has helped cut down the work load of the smaller staff.