Richardson pitches jail alternatives

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Washington Daily News


Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson on Monday made his case for building a new jail behind the Beaufort County Courthouse.

Richardson’s presentation came during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting. Richardson said building the new jail behind the courthouse would be less expensive than building it at the Beaufort County Industrial Park, where commissioners decided in February it should go.

Richardson said he took information from architectural plans and determined the new jail could fit on the land behind the courthouse and west of the county’s tax offices. He said it could be built there for about $17.5 million.

Richardson also contends the county doesn’t need a jail as large as the one designed by the architects. That plan includes a “weekender” room for inmates who serve their sentences during weekends and cells for housing federal inmates and state inmates. By eliminating those facilities, the cost of building the jail would decrease, Richardson said.

“This proposal does not have a parking deck in it a $5 million. … It does not have a day room. A day room is a place where people congregate. They all stay in there all day. … It does not have a “weekender” room. … It does not have deputies and vans to transport prisoners because I’m talking about building it right here behind the courthouse,” Richardson said of his plan.

Richardson said what the architects are proposing to build is “overbuilt.”

The architects’ plan calls for building a 288-bed jail that includes “pods” that each house 96 inmates. Richardson’s plan calls for two pods, with the possibility of adding two pods.

Richardson also said the county has a no-action alternative.

“The no-action alternative is don’t build a jail. Keep what you’ve got. It has not been condemned. It’s a bad situation, but let’s say we can take prisoners out of the jail and make it safer and get to the point that we can live with it,” he said.

Richardson said it would be cheaper to house 20 Beaufort County inmates at the Pitt County Detention Center each year ($558,000) than the annual payment ($1.58 million) to pay off the loan used to build a new jail.

“We can avoid spending that $1,500,000 by spending $558,000 a year in continuing expense, then we’re going to save  $1,022,000 by doing nothing,” he said.

Richardson said the jail committee has refused to look at alternatives to a new jail “because every body wants a shiny, new jail.”

The board took no action on Richardson’s proposal.

For additional coverage of the board’s meeting, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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