BEAUFORT — Sheriff Asa Buck and Moseley Architects representative Dan Mace presented county commissioners several options for expanding inmate space at the county jail, costing from $27 million to more than $40 million. The pair presented the board the figures at the commission’s Feb. 4 seminar at the Beaufort Hotel.
The updated figures included the cost of expanding capacity to cover the county’s current prison population, as well as forecasts for the population in the coming decades.
“We did our first jail study in 2009,” Sheriff Buck said. “The jail population, as it normally does, went up and went down. Things leveled off for a few years. Then the inmate population started increasing over time. Overpopulation has been a problem in our jail for a number of years now.”
To combat this, county commissioners retained Moseley Architects in 2017. A Virginia-based firm, Moseley Architects presented the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office and county commissioners with two expansion options.
While the first option entails construction of a supplementary building adjacent to the current jail, the other option, which has two additional avenues, calls for construction of a new building in a remote area.
The first option comes with a total price tag of $27,430,417, according to current estimates. Option 2-A, which would house up to 315 inmates, would cost the county $40,081,180, while option 2-B would cost $34,017,430 and house 203 inmates.
When presented to county commissioners last year, the first and second option came with a respective cost of $21,397,183 and $30,061,206. The new figures have jumped, and both estimates could change in the coming years.
“A decision needs to be made...of whether to expand on site at the current facility or examine the possibility of building off site for a new facility,” Sheriff Buck said.
County officials opened the current jail in 1995 to hold 116 inmates.
According to information the sheriff’s office provided to county commissioners, the jail currently averages an inmate population of more than 140.
“A jail facility is considered operationally overcrowded when it reaches 80 percent of its rates capacity,” information from CCSO reads. Under that calculation, the jail became operationally overcrowded when its population reached 93 inmates, and Sheriff Buck and Mr. Mace said this problem will only grow over the coming decades.
“This is a result of our population projection, that by the year 2040 the county will need to plan for about 315 beds,” Mr. Mace said.
Based on those projections, the county should have had the capacity for 280 inmates by this year and 291 in five years.
When asked by county commissioners, Mr. Mace said he suggests the county pursue construction of a new facility outside of Court House Square in Beaufort, as he said the current facility doesn’t seem optimized for an expansion.
“This makes the on-site option challenging but not impossible,” Mr. Mace said.
Expansion would create an additional 172 beds under the proposal.
Option 2-A and Option 2-B allow for future expansion, according to Mr. Mace.
“Anticipating the lifespan of the building, you would expand it down the road,” he said.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.