The verdict is in: we need a new jail

Published 8:18 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I recently took a trip to Beaufort County’s jail.

Fortunately, I was there on a tour with Leadership Beaufort, a program sponsored by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately, most of the people who populate the Beaufort County Detention Center are there under less desirable circumstances.

In addition to those detained for running afoul of the law, the jail employs a staff of officers charged with running the facility. Among them, jail administrator Capt. Catrena Ross. She knows as well as anyone Beaufort County’s detention needs.

After a visit, those needs become clear. Beaufort County needs a new jail.

How and when is a question for politicians, special committees and perhaps the voters, but debating the need is tougher than winning an arm-wrestling tournament in C Block.

I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on detention centers, but my career in newspapers has presented opportunities to tour and visit jails in several communities.

It doesn’t take an expert to see our local detention officers face substantial challenges based on the facility in which they serve. It’s outdated, outgrown and its construction isn’t conducive to modern safety standards.

Ross and the men and women under her supervision put themselves at risk each day in the interest of public safety.

I can think of few professions more thankless. As one officer remarked during our tour, no one grows up saying they want to be a jailer.

To argue that inmates don’t deserve new facilities is, at the very least, missing more important points.

Our detention officers deserve clean, safe and modern facilities. Our community deserves a facility that functions as intended, safely housing those who have broken the law or await trial.

Of course, you’re always welcome to see for yourself. Jail tours can be arranged for any interested parties, Ross said. For more information, contact the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office at 252-946-7111.