Jail cited by state inspectors

Published 9:30 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

State officials have cracked down again on the Beaufort County Detention Center, this time for the state of the facility’s showers.
Citing mildew, mold and chipping paint in multiple cellblocks’ showers, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has demanded the problem be fixed, and not for the first time.
According to Capt. Catrena Ross, the jail’s administrator, the state says the unsanitary conditions can lead to the spread of disease.
“That was the one of the biggest issues about the state inspections, this time,” Ross said. “The showers — you know they are in pretty bad shape.”
It’s been an ongoing struggle to keep the shower facilities sanitary, she said, and one that has led to Ross requesting $40,000 from the county to fix the problem by installing easy-to-clean stainless steel wall plates to cover the many layers of paint on dividing walls. Both times Ross has made the budget request to the county, it has been denied.
“There’s only so much I can do,” Ross said, adding that she consistently asks County Commissioners to ”Come over and visit the jail and you’ll see exactly why it is that I ask for what I’m asking for.”
The frequent shower quick fix — cleaning, scraping paint then repainting — is just one of many problems that have plagued the jail recently. Earlier in the year, the detention center faced closure when DHHS issued a directive to take down the Lexan (plastic) glass lining the exterior of the cellblocks. It was replaced over the summer with steel mesh at a cost of over $20,000.
The jail also failed to meet state standards regarding jail population. Ross said that on the day of the inspections, the facility held a total 109 inmates, though it is only built to hold 85. At night, that means the +100 population is overseen by a total of two male officers and one female officer. Ross said overcrowding can lead to a host of problems, including violent incidences.
“It’s happening more because there are more inmates,” Ross explained. “The more inmates you have, the more incidences you’re going to have. In the last three or four months we haven’t had less than 100 (inmates).”
If the problem persists, the jail administrator will be forced to farm out the extra inmates to neighboring facilities, at a cost of $50 to $65 dollars per inmate, per day, not including any travel and medical costs accrued.
The state citations came just a week before representatives from Moseley Architects presented three to the committee tasked with exploring a new county detention center. Two plans called for a new multistory jail built in the parking lot backing the county Courthouse and its current detention center in the basement of the building. The other laid out a single story facility on 25 acres in an unspecified location.
Without having seen the plans, Ross said she favors the latter option: “Offsite would be a better bet. It gives us more room for expansion.”