Local News

State orders Nash County to move scores of inmates from its jail

Posted December 19, 2019 2:21 p.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2020 5:01 p.m. EST

— State regulators have ordered Nash County to move more than 100 inmates out of the county jail until safety hazards in the facility are fixed.

The state Division of Health Service Regulation sent a letter Wednesday to Sheriff Keith Stone stating that no more than 56 inmates be housed in the jail while repairs are made.

Chief Deputy Brandon Medina said the county is trying to find space in other county jails for about 130 inmates by a Dec. 27 deadline set by the state. That would leave about 30 inmates in Nashville, giving the sheriff's office a buffer under the 56-inmate limit for daily arrests, he said.

So far, Dare County has agreed to take 25 of the inmates, and authorities are in talks with Lenoir and Craven counties as well, Medina said.

"It is a logistical nightmare because we have to coordinate court dates that are coming up to make sure that the inmates that we have are not across the state but are locally housed so we can transport them back so they can make their court dates," Medina said. "We’re addressing it as quick as we can so we can get the facilities maintained up to standards, up to state standards, so we can house our inmates back and not put further stress on the county."

Regulators cited 25 issues at the jail, including electrical problems, blocked doorways and staffing shortages. They put deadlines as early as 5 p.m. Thursday on fixing some problems, while the sheriff's office has up to 60 days to address others on the list.

Medina said as many as 19 detention officers would need to be hired to meet the staffing recommendations in the report. Seven applicants are now going through the hiring process, he said.

"I think the jail could use a lot more personnel," he said. "It’s a balance of personnel and building issues. I think, once addressed, it will be a safer facility."

Stone said in a statement that he has been working to improve the jail since he took office five years ago.

"We are working to adhere to the inmate reduction mandate and taking care of the security issues documented in this letter," he said. "I have had numerous meetings with the county manager and chairman of the county commissioners to get these concerns resolved and will continue to work with them to bring closure to the issues."

Robbie Davis, chairman of the Nash County Board of Commissioners, called the state's demands a surprise, noting regulators inspected the jail in May and early this month.

"The majority of the facility items have been completed or were underway," Davis said. "We were surprised by [the order], but we do understand it. Apparently they weren’t satisfied with the progress that has been made to date, and they chose this action."

Twice this year, inmates have escaped from the jail by punching holes in the fence surrounding the exercise yard, and in the second case, a lock on a door to the yard either malfunctioned or was "sabotaged," Stone said at the time.

All of the inmates were later recaptured.

Inmates have also started several fires in the jail this year using wires from electrical outlets or light fixtures, authorities said.

County officials plan to discuss the jail's needs at a Monday morning meeting, Davis said.

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