Local News

Fires at Nash jail highlight need for improvements, sheriff says

Posted August 6, 2019 5:24 p.m. EDT

— An inmate started a fire at the Nash County Detention Center using wires inside light fixtures, according to the sheriff.

Wallace Belfield started three fires on a table inside his cell on Monday, Sheriff Keith Stone said, but it was not the first time this has happened.

Stone says the 40-plus-year-old jail is in desperate need of updating.

"Our staff is in danger because, as you can see, they can reach through the bars. The inmates grab the workers, they can grab the detention officers," he said.

Stone says more violent offenders are coming into local jails.

"The jails today all across America are dangerous places," he said.

Six inmates have escaped from the Nash jail in recent months, including five through a faulty fence. Stone said there have also been multiple fires started because inmates can reach outlets and light fixtures.

"It's where these inmates they can get to these lights. They can touch the wires together, and they use toilet paper to ignite a fire," he said.

Jonathon Boone, the county facilities manager, said he thinks the jail is in good shape. County Manager Zee Lamb did not respond to WRAL News' request for comment.

"I think, given the building's age, it's in relatively good shape," Boone said. "There is the need for renovation in certain areas. Overall, I think it serves its purpose. We're looking at improvements – plumbing related, electrical, we already mentioned cameras."

County commissioners are taking bids to add 62 cameras for the facility. They are also working on improving fencing where the recent escapes happened.