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With a revitalized effort underway to build a new detention center in Halifax County, commissioners and staff will be addressing several pieces of the puzzle throughout this month and the next.

The county has already toured the Granville County Detention Center and County Manager Dia Denton said a trip to the Johnston County jail is planned later this month.

The size of a new Halifax County Detention Center would be similar to Granville’s, which opened in 2020, Denton said.

With the opening of the Granville facility coinciding with the COVID 19 pandemic, Denton said costs “have wildly fluctuated in the last four years.”

The county anticipates spending between $30 million to $50 million for a new detention center and Denton said First Tryon Advisors will be at the April 1 board of commissioners meeting to present funding options and scenarios.

Denton said staff met with the financial advisor this week.

The county is also formulating a request for qualifications to secure an architect for the project. “We have worked with Moseley Architects in previous projects regarding renovating the jail and were able to amend-update the contract with Moseley,” she said. “With us now planning for a total replacement, a new RFQ will be necessary.”

The county hopes to have the RFQ completed and advertised this month. 

There are several factors which have led commissioners to explore a new detention center.

“Capacity is one,” Denton said. “The current capacity is 85 inmates. We can house 77 males and eight females. We are regularly over that figure so jail staff have to transport inmates to other counties and the county pays for them to be at other county jails at a cost of $40 per day and up.” 

The current jail is more than 40-years-old, the county manager said. “The design of the jail is not efficient for operational purposes. “Our operations staff have to address maintenance issues at least on a weekly basis due to the inmates breaking or tampering with fixtures and for upkeep of an old facility.”

The jail staff also faces classification issues, which means separating inmates who may be involved in the same case who shouldn’t speak to each other. “Jail staff also try to separate those who are in rival gangs and those who have mental health issues that have landed them in the jail. Most of those inmates with mental health issues take up the single cell spaces.”

Sheriff Tyree Davis said the average monthly inmate population is 164 and the average cost of housing inmates in other facilities is more than $59,000 a month, a figure which he said doesn’t include juveniles.

Davis said with new laws requiring people who are already out on bond being placed in custody without the opportunity for bond if they commit another crime the inmate population will increase.

“We’re in dire need of a new jail and new sheriff’s office facilities,” he said. “I appreciate the county looking into it so we can keep our staff and inmates safe by providing a humane environment to house people while they’re waiting to be tried.”

Commissioner Sammy Webb, who brought up the matter in February, said, “It’s a public safety issue.”

One of his concerns is the limited capacity.

An attorney, Webb said he went to the jail a week ago to see three clients. “When I got there one client was in Edgecombe County, another client was in Edgecombe County jail and another client was in Granville County jail. We have clients all the way down in Robeson County, Wayne County. These people are being housed all over the state and that’s a big concern. That limits the access of the lawyers to their clients.”

Then, he said, there’s a transportation issue. “The sheriff’s office has to transport these individuals to court. Now we’re spending $50 a day on each inmate. That money can go toward the loan payment. You can’t repair it. It’s outdated.”

Webb toured the Granville County facility. “It’s state of the art. I wish we would model ours on Granville County’s because we’re about the (same) size as they are.”