County working on jail issues
Johnny Woodard Staff Reporter
The process of remedying the dozen-plus deficiencies cited in a recent state inspection of the Scotland County jail is already underway, according to the facility’s administrator.
Speaking before the Scotland County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, jail administrator Cpt. Sandra Miller addressed each of the citations in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ semi-annual inspection of the facility in July. Miller presented a “plan of action” to the commissioners which included solutions to the numerous maintenance and safety issues mentioned in the report.
Approved by the state earlier this week, the plan of action includes plans to repaint the building, which has not been painted since 2010. Miller said that state inspectors suggest that the jail be painted at least once every two years.
Some of the problems uncovered during the inspection have already been taken care of, Miller said, including the improperly cleaned kitchen facility.
“We cleaned that the day after the inspection,” Miller said.
According to Miller, at least one of the changes recommended by the state during a July inspection of the Scotland County jail could be “kind of costly.”
“(The inspector) wants two way communications in each cell … and I am taking quotes on that,” Miller said, before adding that she was “fearing” that the installation of that communication equipment could be expensive.
County Manager Kevin Patterson said that “two way communications is going to be very expensive” and that the funds to pay for the equipment would have to come from the county’s capital budget.
And while some of the routine maintenance work called for in the inspection will be handled within the jail’s budget, Miller reported that she would “have to request additional money” for other items.
Jailers were also cited in the inspection report for not properly making “rounds” to check on the inmates. Required to check in on inmates at least twice every hour on an irregular basis, the inspection found an instance of almost two hours between rounds.
“That was due to the negligence of an officer … and proper disciplinary action was taken,” Miller explained. “(That officer) is no longer employed here.”
Addressing specifically the inspection’s finding that some jail keys were not easily identified by workers, Miller said that the keys in question were little-used keys to non-critical spaces in the building.
Miller said that she is “in the process of obtaining quotes” for the repair of holes in the ceiling, missing food panels on cell doors, the replacement of rusty security mirrors and the repair of commodes.
Where possible Miller reported that she was attempting to obtain quotes from local contractors.
In response to the report’s finding that the laundry room dryer was not being cleaned properly, Miller said that it is now being cleaned twice daily.
The report also found that some inmates did not have access to hot and cold water, as required. Miller said that there is hot and cold water, but the hot water “takes time” to come on.
“And maintenance has adjusted missing valves and all lavatories have been checked for clogging situations,” she said.
The facility’s failing HVAC system is also set to be replaced within the coming months thanks to an energy savings contract initiated by the county.
There were no surprises in the state’s inspection report for Wagram resident Kathy McDonald, whose son has been jailed at the facility for nearly a year.
During the public forum portion of the meeting, McDonald told the commissioners that she has been complaining “for a long time” about poor conditions inside the jail, to no avail.
“(My son) stayed sick the whole time he was there … because of the mold and mildew … and he fell in the shower from the slime, and it still has problems now,” McDonald said.
Among McDonald’s remarks were complaints about her son’s magazine and newspaper subscriptions being damaged and stolen by jailers during a mandatory search process, as well as allegations of improper administration of his medication.
While her son was in the jail, McDonald said she filed several formal complaints with state and federal entities detailing her concerns.
“The structure damage is a danger to everyone in the facility … and they need to seriously consider closing it down (if the issues are not corrected),” McDonald said.
“And that is not to say that there are not good officers there … but something needs to be done.”
McDonald’s son has since been moved to another facility.
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