No delays,

Published 12:25 am Tuesday, September 23, 2008

By Staff
we need a new clink
For at least a decade, the county’s commissioners have been talking about a new jail. Now they finally are starting to swing into action, and we hope to see them follow through.
They have entered negotiations with a consultant for help planning the new lockup and agreed to let the jail hire extra help, which should help the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deal with turnover better.
We trust the members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners understand how important it is that the county get a new jail posthaste.
According to Chief Deputy Harry Meredith of the sheriff’s office, it’s a question of when someone is hurt in the jail, not if someone gets hurt.
Our jail is small, and its design is outmoded. No one wants to work there, and it’s difficult and dangerous for the staff to control the inmates.
Right now there are usually about 100 people incarcerated in it, though it was designed for a maximum of 85.
The county has already been shipping all its female inmates to Pamlico County because our county doesn’t have enough female staff to supervise them.
And it looks like Beaufort County could have to start shipping some of the men jailed here to another county soon, Meredith said.
For the privilege of sending arrestees to another county, Beaufort County pays $50 per inmate per day. The county must also pay for manpower, vehicles and fuel to ferry the prisoners back and forth.
People in county jails are either serving time for minor offenses or awaiting trial. It’s ridiculous that they’re being held miles from home because we haven’t built a big enough facility.
As we wait for the county to site the jail, design it and build it, we’re bound to be reminded of that great advice for growing asparagus, “First, dig a ditch three years ago.” The commissioners really should have started this process sooner, and the best they can do now is to push the jail through without unnecessary delay.
That means that when folks start feuding over where to put the new jail — and county officials think it could be a real controversy — the question will have to be put to bed quickly because we cannot afford to wait any longer for this jail.
That’s not so say the county should rush forward blindly on this project. There’s no need to end up like the folks in Swan Quarter, who have a swell jail sitting unused and empty.
We think that the consultant the commissioners have hired shows that our commissioners have shown sufficient forethought, at least now that they’ve gotten started.
Now the time has come to push forward with all due speed.