KENANSVILLE, DUPLIN COUNTY - Duplin County Commissioners have sent a resolution to the State Department of Corrections in hopes of acquiring the empty correctional center in Kenansville.
Sheriff Blake Wallace says this all stems from a major issue in the current jail -- overcrowding.
"I'm concerned about their safety as well as the safety of my staff," he said.
There are 92 beds in the current Duplin County Jail. But Wallace says he's seen as many as 170 inmates staying in the jail at a time. With those cramped conditions, he says there needs to be change.
Because the jail is so overcrowded, the sheriff's office has at least 20 inmates sleeping on the floor at a time. They've also had to house inmates in other counties and put some on a house arrest program just to accommodate all of them.
Housing inmates in other counties causes a big financial hit for the county, according to Wallace. He says acquiring the prison facility would be much more cost-effective.
"Just from may first of this year alone, the county spent more than $78,000 housing inmates in other jails just to alleviate the overcrowding," Wallace said.
The empty Duplin Correctional Center has about 320 beds, which Wallace says will more than serve the needs of Duplin County into the future.
"It would more than serve our needs and hopefully, if we're able to acquire the property, we could lease some bed space out to other counties and generate some income for Duplin County," Wallace said.
Now, it's a waiting game while the state decides whether to hand over the property to the County or re-purpose it. Wallace doesn't expect any formal action being taken until spring 2014.
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