Rhode Island's shortage of deputy sheriffs has forced the Providence County Superior Court to limit the number of trials held at once to ensure that adequate security staff is available.
There are currently 167 sheriffs employed by the state, with 19 listed under injured-on-duty status and another eight out on long-term sick leave.
Lt. Col. Kevin Barry, commanding officer of the state Department of Public Safety, says the shortage is going to affect the courtroom calendar. He says DPS officials aren't willing to risk putting lives in jeopardy because of the lack of sheriffs.
A sheriff is assigned to each judge and the jury during a trial. Two sheriffs accompany every defendant to their court appearances and others may be needed for additional tasks.