WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Months after the December 4-3 decision to stop funding and discussing the potential for a new jail in Beaufort County, the debate is still alive and well among commissioners.
On Thursday, WNCT was given an exclusive tour inside the jail. This was the first time a news crew had been inside since an inmate was found hanging in his cell in November 2014.
Jail staff said they are making due with what they have and ensuring safety at all cost. In a recent inspection by the NC DHHS, the jail received deficiencies for lack of outside light and problems stemming from the key swipe used when making rounds to check on inmates.
The fact that inspection didn’t yield any problems big enough to shut down the jail is proof enough for Commissioner Hood Richardson that building a new one is not needed.
“We meet the state standards with the present jail,” Richardson said. “We meet the minimal standards.”
He said jails aren’t supposed to be nice places, and money could be spent better elsewhere.
“It doesn’t have to be a pleasant place, and it’s not supposed to be a pleasant place,” he said. “The modern jails that I’ve been in are country clubs.”
But Commissioner Ed Booth disagrees. He believes the living conditions in the jail are not fit for humans, citing ventilation problems and lack of privacy.
“They shouldn’t have to put up a towel to use a bathroom or sheet to use a bathroom,” Booth said.
He also believes jail staff deserve better working conditions.
“They’re in jail themselves because of the facility that they have to work in,” he said. “They’re the ones that are suffering.”
During December’s commissioner meeting, Commissioners Richardson, Waters, Buzzeo and Brinn all voted against the new jail. To bring it back up, one of them would need to switch positions.