From CPP: NC counties base jail decisions on controversial consultant work

From CPP: NC counties base jail decisions on controversial consultant work

By Jordan Wilkie, originally published by Carolina Public Press. Carolina Public Press is an independent, in-depth and investigative nonprofit news service for North Carolina.

Editor’s note: This article is part 1 of the four-part investigative series Raising Jails, which examines how and why North Carolina counties decide to build bigger jails, the impact of deciding to build and potential policy changes that could lead to different outcomes.

When Sheriff Greg Christopher was appointed in 2013, he inherited a Haywood County jail that was already full.

The county was just coming out of a recession, money was tight, and he did not want to ask the county commissioners for the funds it would have taken to add on to the jail, he said.

In the years since, Christopher worked with the county and a local nonprofit to connect people getting out of jail to transitional housing and other support services, hoping to keep the population in check.

But by 2020, two years before his planned retirement, Christopher felt the county needed that jail expansion, so he contacted Moseley Architects to find out just how big the county should build.

Architecture firms like Virginia-based Moseley often assess whether counties need to build or expand jails.

In Haywood, Moseley came back with an assessment to build another 145 jail beds to last the county another 25 years. The firm presented its findings to county commissioners on Nov. 2, 2020.

Commissioners have not decided whether to build. The county continues to plan, testing the foundation and trying to get permission to build close to the railway. Costs to build today are estimated at around $20 million.

Last week, Haywood decided to reopen its jail annex to house women, a month after county staff told Carolina Public Press the facility was in poor condition.

Kevin Ensley