JAIL FAIL: Inspection reveals code violations at detention center
Published 9:22 pm Saturday, February 14, 2015
Two state inspections in recent month revealed the Beaufort County Detention Center does meet state requirements in several areas.
The report from the Division of Health Service Regulation was issued last week; its findings cover on-site inspections performed on Dec. 18, 2014 and Jan. 27, 2015, with the latter inspection taking place after dark.
The existing detention center, located in the basement of the Beaufort County Courthouse, has long been a contentious subject between those who believe a new jail/public facility is needed and those objecting to its potential cost to county taxpayers.
The places where the jail came up lacking during its latest round of inspections include a comprehensive fire plan, general security, making alterations to the existing jail without approval by DHSR, lighting and ventilation. At the time of the inspections, plumbing issues were also recorded as not meeting state code, but the problem of sewage occasionally backing up into the female shower area has since been dealt with, said Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Brinn.
According to the report, the fire plan as explained by Beaufort County Detention Center employees would involve evacuating inmates from the jail by bus, though a fire plan submitted to the agency in November of 2009 makes no mention of evacuation by bus. BCDC employees also said evacuation to another location would require multiple trips, as the bus cannot accommodate the entire inmate population, according to the report.
General security at the jail failed to meet requirements: “It was observed that the design of the BCDC does not physically prevent contact between inmates and the general public in the booking area. The general public is allowed to access and walk through the booking area while an inmate is being fingerprinted. When needed the general public is also fingerprinted in this area.” That there is no unauthorized contact between inmates and persons from outside the jail is part of the general security requirement.
State inspectors found fault with a repair made to the jail ceiling 15 years ago, in that the lower membrane of the fire-resistance rate floor/ceiling assembly had been removed from a portion of the facility. Interviews with Public Works employees indicated “that the membrane had been removed because inmates were escaping to public areas of the jail via the ceiling cavity above the membrane,” according to the report.
Its location in the basement of the courthouse impacts the admission of natural light in dormitory areas, as required by a 1990 statute: “The windows have been painted over which prevents natural light from entering the cell areas.”
Brinn said the findings will be addressed at the next county commissioners’ meeting in March, and will be discussed during the board’s March retreat.
“It wasn’t a very good report, but I really feel that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed in it,” Brinn said. “We’ll discuss their findings at the March meeting. The interim manager and myself had a meeting with Sheriff Coleman about it, and he made us feel better about it. I think there’s nothing in there that can’t be repaired.”