Local News

Many County Jails At, Near Or Over Capacity

Posted November 14, 2003

— Local jails are bursting at the seams and there is no easy fix.

The Sampson County Jail, for example, has seen better days.

"This thing is older than I am and I'm 52," Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said. "It's just an old jail built in 1950."

The jail, which can hold 63 inmates, currently has 63 inmates. There is an annex to take the extras, but the sheriff said it is almost full, too.

"If you don't have somewhere to put them, it's almost ludicrous to arrest them," he said.

Jails across the state are ina pinch. WRAL called six county jails in the area and found that all of them are at above capacity -- some are way above.

Harnett County has almost double the number of inmates as the jail is designed to hold. So it stands to reason that people in Harnett County would be concerned.

"No, I haven't heard much talk about it," said a resident. "Out of sight, out of mind. As long as it's not affecting them, then they're not going to be bothered by it," another resident said.

That is, until there is a problem.

"Back in February and March of last year, we had seven inmates to escape from this facility," Thornton said of the Sampson County Jail.

Sampson County plans to build a new jail like other counties have done, but even some of those new jails are already full.

"The old saying goes,' If you build it, they will come.' It's a reality," Thornton said.

Sampson County's plan for a new jail hinges on a meeting on Monday, when county commissioners vote whether to build it.

The jails in Sampson and Harnett counties are not the only ones dealing with overcrowding and understaffing.

In October, four inmates escaped from the Hoke County Jail.

Last week, county commissioners agreed to appoint a committee to decide what improvements are needed and how much they will cost.


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