To stop or not stop the jail

Published 6:28 pm Monday, July 7, 2014



Throughout Beaufort County, one would be hard pressed to find a single person who doesn’t have an opinion on whether or not the county should build a new jail. One would be hard pressed to find a single person who doesn’t have an opinion about where that jail should be built.

It’s a hot button issue — one that had many more people than can fit into Chocowinity’s Town Hall showing up for a public hearing; one that had Commissioner Gary Brinn calling a press conference before a scheduled county commissioners’ meeting yesterday.

The issue of the jail is ongoing — the last time it came up and any real work was done exploring options, the plan was derailed. At that time, a new jail would have cost a quarter of what it will cost to build today. At that time, some commissioners’ main objection was that it would raise taxes.

Now, here the county sits, eight years later, still without a new jail — a new jail that will cost so much more to build than it would have if it’d just been built the first time around.

The good thing about the jail issue is that it’s actually gotten people engaged and participating in discussions about local politics. The bad thing is that it takes the threat — real or imagined — of taxes being raised, property values plummeting and people fearing for their safety to make them do it. No one ever seems to get involved unless they feel threatened in some way.

Fact is, nobody wants a new jail. Let that be amended: Nobody wants a new jail except for the people who work in the jail and those who support the people who work in the new jail — and let’s not forget the friends and family of those who work in the new jail. All those people would probably gladly pay for the safety of jail employees and the peace of mind that goes along with knowing they are in a safe environment.

The Beaufort County Detention Center is not a safe environment and as the building continues to age, it will become less so.

Waiting another seven years to address the need for a new jail will accomplish only one thing: increased construction cost.