In a meeting on Tuesday, Sheriff BJ Barnes discussed with members of Greensboro and High Point’s News and Record, the Examiner, and Rhinocerous Times regarding all approaches and outcomes on the new jail. Before anything was said, Barnes made sure that the press knew he didn’t go into this plan lightly. However, the decision came from County Manager Brenda Jones Fox, a combination of 139 years of detention experience and what’s said to be the best outcome for law enforcements, inmates, and the community. Nevertheless, since July of last year the system has lost 23 detention officers due to stress from the new facility. So what’s really going on behind the construction on Sycamore St?
Since the state has the power to take over jails and move prisoners and it’s roughly $50 to move one inmate, then the idea of building a bigger jail seems, well, cheaper. For instance, Monday night alone there were 139 inmates sleeping on the floor of Greensboro’s jail. To move just those to another facility would be close to $7,000. So their question is do we spend that everytime it gets over crowded or just build another place of confinement? The answer: another place of confinement. Barnes stated, with an austere look, that descisions like these are made by those that don’t run jails and have no clue as to what’s going on. The people that make these choices are those that run daycares and real estate businessess.
The Sheriff receives four reports daily from his detention centers. Six counting the county farm. With incidents such as attempted suicide by beating heads against cell walls and even as outrageous as cutting holes in mattresses and lying in them as if it were a cocoon, Barnes comes up with his own plan. Something that will accomodate both Fox and his staff.
The biggest complaint is the money and number of extra employees needed. Without the proper number of staff member, Barnes said he will not open the jail because before anything he must protect his officers and prisoners. Moving workers from the old jail to the new facility was mentioned and considered a good idea. Still, there would be a need for 166 more correctional officers to ensure proper security and to continue all programs as well as keep the county farm open. For some reason, Fox feels the need to want to close the county farm, which in return, will lose all benefits and programs such as the Blandwood Mansion and the plantation. The white goods (which is the pickup of dump as well as washer/dryer removals) will remain. If the staff requirements are not met then the new facility will only be able to open the first floor which will still mean overcrowded areas as well as inmates being on a 21-23 hour lockdown.
Plan one comes into play in a “perfect world”. This plan calls for the extra 166 staff members needed to provide the supervision needed that will allow the prisoners to get out on the yard to stay healthy and attend the programs that are offered to help with drug problems. Plan one will cost about $9.2million. All figures are based on an annual salary assuming each employee makes $59,000 a year. Fox is not even considering this plan.
Option two is to combine Greensboro and High Point jail but leave all intakes to High Point. Visitation will change to video visits as the new facility has too many floors to move outsiders and prisoners up and down different floors. The new joint will have this visitation regardless. Trying to compromise with Fox’s wishes and budget, this will only call for 113 staff members rather than 166 and will cost $6.7million instead of $9.2. Again, Fox thinks this is still too much.
The third option is one that Sheriff Barnes presented himself. Since Fox wants the farm shut down Barnes proposes to combine Greensboro, High Point, and the inside of the county farm. Consolidate them all into the new facility and still leave intake at High Point, which is temporarily being vacated to begin that process. The county farm will be closed (to satisfy Fox) however will still operate at the new location and keep its benefits. Barnes has no intention or need to close High Point’s jail as he says it is well needed to take us into the year 2025. As a matter of fact, if it were up to him, we would have one jail at the city line. This option cuts the staff number down to 89 and will cost a mere $5.25 million. If that doesn’t win Fox over then his last option, which he calls “bare bones” will be introduced. Bare bones will present the minimum programs as well as the minimum requirements for living condition. High Point will stay open and will not be touched. The farm will remain open as well. The cost for operation bare bones is $5.37million and only requires an extra 91 CO’s.
Last year alone the farm workers produced:
3500lbs of surplus; 6000lbs of metal; 275,000 tires; 142,000lbs at landfills; 27,760lbs of white goods; and 57000hrs of labor from the inmates
Democratic Commissioner Paul Gibson says we need both the jail and the programs. “These are our parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters in these jails. We need to make them better. It’s up to all of us to help them get better.”