Data raise serious questions about the "need" for a new jail but state inspection report shows the jail meets current state standards | Eastern North Carolina Now

Everyone knows that the Gang of Four and the Resident Superior Court Judge have already determined that a new jail needs to be built in Beaufort County.

    Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.

    Everyone knows that the Gang of Four and the Resident Superior Court Judge have already determined that a new jail needs to be built in Beaufort County. And they have already determined that the location will be in the Chocowinity Industrial Park on US 17 south of Chocowinity, several miles from the County Courthouse. In fact, the board voted 4-3 to negotiate contracts with architects and construction management companies at the same meeting. But in the same meeting there was information brought out that raises serious questions, chief among them being whether there is even a need for a new jail.

    Does Beaufort County need to build a new jail...regardless of the question of where such a facility might would be located?

    If you ever wanted solid information upon which to base your answer to that question you should have been at, or you should watch the video of the January, 2014 County Commissioners' meeting. Here's what you will learn from that meeting:

    First, the board was provided information on the inmate census of the population incarcerated by Beaufort County. In the video you will hear Commissioner explain why the reports are useless. You can review the data itself by clicking here.

    The report gets rather complicated but the problem can be simply stated: There is no way for the Board to know how many people are in the jail. One report tells you one thing, while another tells you something else. And then they handwrite adjustments on some categories of inmates.

    What Richardson is saying is that the record keeping system used by the Sheriff is not sufficient for the Commissioners to know (and presumably the Sheriff does not know either) how many inmates they have in each category, on which days and what the daily count of physical bodies in the jail were on given days. For example, while they record on one report how many inmates are "assigned" to the Sheriff for incarceration, they do not show on that report the physical location of all of those inmates. Some are in the jail, some are in other jails, some are on "pre-trial release," and they do not show how many are "weekenders." So the Commissioners don't know how many beds they need for not only a new jail, but what to census of the current jail population is.

    So in relation to planning for a new jail, what is important is that they don't know how many beds of each category (youth, male, female, isolated, medical etc.) they need.

    So in relation to planning for a new jail, what is important is that they don't know how many beds of each category (youth, male, female, isolated, medical etc.) they need.

    So how do they know the current jail is "inadequate"? How do they know how many beds to build in a new jail? The answer is: They don't know. They don't have the data to know.

    But they argue: "The current jail is inadequate."

    But here again, Richardson uses data to back up his contention that the current jail is adequate.

    The State of North Carolina sets standards for jail in the state. They then inspect all jails on a regular basis to determine whether a jail in in compliance with those standards. The most recent state inspection of the Beaufort County Jail took place on October 8, 2013. You can review the report from the state inspectors by clicking here.

    As Hood Richardson explains in the video of the meeting, there were no non-compliance findings in the report. The only deficiencies in meeting the current state standards were management issues, not facility issues. That is precisely what both Hood Richardson and Sheriff candidate Donald Dixon have been saying for months: The problems in the jail are the result of the Sheriff's mismanagement of the facility rather than the facility itself.

    At the end of the video (below) there is a discussion of whether Attorney David Francisco included a statement, based on the State Inspection Report, in his monthly report to Judge Wayland Sermons, that the jail was in compliance with state standards, according to the inspection report. Attorney Francisco did not include that in his report and you will hear the discussion at the end of the clip about why he didn't and how it was resolved. We will report further on the issue of the reports to the Judge in a later article.

    Here's the video of part of the discussion on the jail at the January meeting:

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