Jail closes doors to all inmates

Published 7:05 pm Friday, June 19, 2020

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The Beaufort County Detention Center will be cleared of inmates as contractors make a push to fix the jail’s door-locking mechanisms within the next 60 days.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an additional $323,500 contract with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office to house Beaufort County inmates for the next two months, at a cost of $75 per bed, per day. The vote was split, 4-3, with commissioners Stan Deatherage, John Rebholz and Hood Richardson voting against the measure.

According to Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood, the decision to move the few remaining inmates out of the detention center was necessary, because there would be no way to secure the space as exterior doors would be removed and the entire control system will be torn out and replaced.

“What this does is this completely closes the jail down, so you don’t even receive people in the jail,” Alligood said.

Where, before, the detention center was able to accommodate some inmates until they could be released on bond or sent to other facilities, now inmates will bypass the local detention center altogether.

“Arresting officers will now take their person directly to Pitt County after they see the magistrate (in Beaufort County),” Alligood said.

Pitt County Sheriff’s Office has an agreement with the federal government to house federal inmates at a rate of $100 per bed, per day, but decreased that rate for Beaufort County. Beaufort County detention officers will be manning the leased 75-bed E block at the Pitt County Detention Center at the reduced rate, but if the project extends beyond 60 days, the rate will go up. Female inmates will be housed in Pitt County’s general female population at the $100 per bed, per day rate.

“If we’re not out of there in 60 days, then everything goes to $100 a bed, so that’s our incentive to make sure we’re out of there,” Alligood said.

The Beaufort County Detention Center’s door-locking mechanisms began to fail in January 2019. Since, a series of delays have prevented fixing the problem, including an extended bidding period because no initial bids were made for the work; a long wait to have the project approved by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; and disruptions to the supply chain by COVID-19 that set back contractors Montgomery Technology Systems’ ability to get materials.

The project was initially budgeted at $1,535,300, which included $798,000 for the work and $630,000 for safekeeping fees to house Beaufort County’s inmates elsewhere, along with permitting and contingency fees. Due to delays, another $462,210 in safekeeping fees was requested and approved by the Board of Commissioners in March. As of Monday’s special-called meeting, the project budget total for inmate housing now stands at $1,415,710.