The time for talking is over

Published 12:09 pm Saturday, June 8, 2013

If there was any doubt that Beaufort County needs a new jail, perhaps the power outage caused Thursday night by faulty 40-year-old wiring has removed that doubt.

Let’s face it. The existing jail is outdated. It’s a relic of the past. Its days of being a functional, safe place are over.

For the safety of the jail staff, lawyers, family members visiting inmates and the inmates, it’s time to get on with building a new jail. Existing conditions at the jail are nothing more than a lawsuit waiting to happen. Let just one inmate be seriously injured or killed while incarcerated at the jail and Beaufort County will face a lawsuit that could result in the county paying damages in excess of what building a new jail would cost. A member of the jail staff also could be injured or killed as a result of dangerous conditions at the jail, which also could result in lawsuit.

Sheriff Alan Jordan and others have been asking for a new jail for several years. Perhaps it’s time to listen to them and do more than just talk about building a new jail.

The power outage not only posed danger to detention officers, inmates and those who responded to the emergency, it also posed danger to the community in the form of inmates possibly escaping during the power outage and the confusion it caused.

Thanks to trained detention officers, deputies and other emergency-response personnel, a potentially dangerous situation was held in check and possible disastrous outcomes averted.

“Of course, all this was going on in the middle of a tropical storm, dumping a lot of rain on us and we had extension cords running from the second floor of the courthouse,” Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, said. “It was a pretty significant incident, simply because of the lives that we’re responsible for in the detention center — it posed a significant risk to the county from a liability perspective.”

He’s right.

It’s time to stop talking about building a new jail. It’s time to build a new jail.