Local News

Consultant Offers Wake Commissioners a Plan to Relieve Jail Crowding

Posted August 15, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Wake Countyhas run out of adequate space to detain criminals. Monday night, consultants floated a new plan to keep the peace, but the big question is how will the county pick up the tab?

When the Public Safety Center opened in 1993, 1,100 inmates were booked each month. Now, 3,300 inmates are booked every month.

"Any time you get a bunch of people together, you have tension. In the summer, it's worse," said Lt. Louis Thorpe, detention officer.

About a thousand Wake County inmates are squeezed into a jail system with just 851 beds. Cell blocks built to hold 24 inmates now house twice that many. Jailers say it is a volatile and dangerous situation.

"The inmates, they are always plotting. They plot 24/7. If they wanted to take over, it wouldn't be a problem," said Thorpe.

"Not only are you booking more people into your jail, but they're staying increasingly longer periods of time," said Steven Carter, jail consultant.

A consultant offered Wake County Commissioners a solution, build 1,800 more beds over the next 15 years at a cost of $178 million.

"The first phase would begin in fiscal year 2000 and be completed in 2001-2002. The second phase, five years later, would be completed in 2015," explained Phil Stout, Wake County Facilities director.

There are already 300 inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Even if a new jail is built right away, that number would climb to 500 by the time the first phase opens.

It is a frustrating scenario for a county that is strapped for cash.

"It was frustrating, disappointing, complicated and just one of those things where it is 'How do you find a solution to this problem?'" said County Commissioner Herb Council.

The consultants suggest building the new beds at the Hammond Road Annex.

They would start by adding 550 beds at a cost of about $20 million. County Commissioners will look for some money to get started with over the next few weeks.