Beaufort County opts out of law

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Part of a recent state law shifting responsibility for housing certain inmates from N.C. Department of Correction prisons to county jails will not be put into effect in Beaufort County. The Misdemeanant Confinement Program, part of the Justice Reinvestment Act passed by the N.C. General Assembly last year, allows for inmates serving sentences between 90 and 180 days for misdemeanor crimes to serve that time in county jails. Previously, sentences of more than 90 days were served in Department of Correction facilities.

Counties were given the ability to opt out of the program if their detention centers did meet the criteria required by the state, part of that being the ability to house detainees sent from other counties.

“We decided not to participate in the program because of our overcrowding issues,” said Maj. Kenneth Watson of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. “Some facilities are just not in the position to house additional inmates.”

Watson and Beaufort County Detention Center Administrator, Capt. Catrena Ross, were on hand at the Beaufort County commissioners’ meeting on Monday night to field questions about the issue and how the Misdemeanant Confinement Program works.

After training sessions with state authorities, representatives with the sheriff’s office worked with the county manager’s office to make the decision not to participate in the program.

The Beaufort County Detention Center, built in 1972, experiences cyclical overcrowding, housing as many as 120-plus inmates in an 85-bed prison.