Thursday, August 18, 2022

Overcrowding at Pender Jail has cost the county at least $2.8 million since the summer of 2016

The jail's administration building is located next to the jail, which only has 92 beds for inmates. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
The jail’s administration building is located next to the jail, which only has 92 beds for inmates. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

BURGAW — Pender County has spent an annual average of $554,100 over the past five fiscal years on costs associated with transferring inmates to state facilities and neighboring county jails due to overcrowding. But these costs do not represent the full picture, according to Pender Finance Director Meg Blue.

The costs she provided on Monday in response to a public records request sent on August 26 do not include those associated with payroll, medical expenses, and other costs “that cannot be broken out to inmate transfers versus in-house inmate supervision,” according to Blue.

RELATED: Governor signs land deal for future Pender County jail to alleviate overcrowding

She also noted that gas and fuel costs for inmate transfers were not differentiated by the sheriff’s office — within the total gas and fuel costs spent annually — until sometime in 2018. Additionally, she said the provided numbers do not include the purchase of an inmate transport van that will cost $30,972, approved by county commissioners in early August.

The county’s highest spending of known inmate transfer costs occurred in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, when it spent at least $594,726. According to former County Manager Randall Woodruff, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office transported 1,042 inmates to out-of-county jail facilities in 2018, using a total of 1,600 man-hours, 725 transports, and a total traveled distance of almost 78,000 miles across the state.

The county has so far spent $23,187 since the current fiscal year began on July 1, bringing the total amount spent since July 2016 to at least $2.8 million.

In July 2019, Governor Roy Cooper approved the transfer of 100 acres of state-owned agricultural land to the county for a future jail facility, days after county commissioners approved another $575,000 to house inmates in state and neighboring county facilities.

The total allotted amount included $200,000 to the NC Department of Adult Corrections, $200,000 to the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, $30,000 to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, $10,000 to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, and $10,000 to the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.

The above costs do not include those associated with payroll, medical expenses, and other costs “that cannot be broken out to inmate transfers versus in-house inmate supervision,” according to Pender Finance Director Meg Blue.

In the fall of 2011, the Raleigh firm Moseley Architecture submitted plans for a new jail and law enforcement center. But with no land for the facility, those plans have gained no traction until the approval of the state land transfer.

At a commissioners meeting on August 17, Sheriff Cutler said amended designs for the new jail is expected to cost $32.4 million to construct, while a new law enforcement center is expected to cost an additional $11.6 million. The latter would house a new sheriff’s office, 911 center, radio tower, logistics equipment warehouse, and magistrate’s office.


Send tips and comments to the reporter at mark@localdailymedia.com or (970) 413-3815

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