County Commissioner Hood Richardson suggests jail expansion

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson proposed an idea to expand the Beaufort County Detention Facility during the commissioners regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 7. 

Richardson made the suggestion toward the end of the meeting when oftentimes he and Commissioner Stan Deatherage share commentary and propose ideas that are typically discussed, but not voted on. 

According to Richardson, part of the detention facility is used to store documents belonging to the Clerk of Court office and the Register of Deeds office. He suggested those documents and the Register of Deeds be moved into a new building which would allow the facility to expand and build out from its location beneath the Beaufort County Courthouse (112 W. Second St., Washington). 

Richardson believes the detention facility needs to be expanded so that more people can be incarcerated for drug charges and so Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office can have more space. 

“…If we had more space in the jail, we would be able to confine more people involved with drugs,” Richardson said. 

Richardson speculates that should the basement of the facility be built out, then it could add 18 more cells and two isolation cells in addition to providing additional space for healthcare. 

“If you build out the bottom of the jail, according to the work that the jail committee did, if you build out the basement of the jail, you would get, and I’m not going to swear to this, but this is what I recall, you would get 18 more cells. You would get a couple more cells for isolation. You would have a place for health care, a better facility for healthcare to work and intake facilities,” Richardson shared. 

He explained that before the COVID-19 the detention facility neared its capacity limit with an estimated 85 inmates. 

“We need to go ahead and fix the jail so that we don’t have somebody in here trying to tell us later on that all of a sudden we need a new jail,” Richardson said. 

He estimated the county could spend an approximate $4 million to expand the basement of the detention facility.

If the facility were expanded and the Register of Deeds Office moved to a new building from its location within the Beaufort County Courthouse, then they would have a “more convenient space” to work, Richardson described. 

“If we build out the basement of the jail, half of that area is used by the Clerk of Court for storage of documents and the other half of that basement is used by the Register of Deeds for storage of documents that the public needs access to. So, if you build out the jail, you’re going to have to vacate both of those uses,” Richardson said. 

He believes the parking lot behind the courthouse could be space where a new Register of Deeds office could be located in the future. 

Commissioner John Rebholz responded to Richardson saying the jail committee could return with a recommendation after their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29. 

Rebholz explained the last estimate to build out the basement was $5.7 million, and about $600,000 of that would have gone toward a new heating and air system. Therefore, if Beaufort County decided to build out the detention facility and construct a new Register of Deeds office, the combined starting price of the projects would be approximately $8 million.