ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County commissioners got the chance to tour the new $17 million Law Enforcement and Detention Center on Monday, getting a good look at the pristine facility about a month before inmates are transferred in.
Before the tour began, commissioners opened a special meeting in the jail’s training room and were briefed by Sheriff Jim McVicker about some of the facility’s highlights. The commissioners then heard from CSI specialist Shawn Gibson, who explained the procedure for transferring the stored case evidence from the old facility to the new one.
“We have approximately 5,100 pieces of evidence involved with about 1,400 cases,” Gibson said. “We transferred the evidence shelf by shelf and the new evidence room is set up similarly to the old one.”
Gibson said there is only one set of keys to the evidence room, which belong to him, and only his back-up and Chief Deputy Larry Guyton have clearance to be in the evidence room — and none go in by themselves.
Guyton told the commissioners there are more than 200 cameras throughout the new facility, including two in the evidence room positioned near the two entrances.
“We plan to install three more cameras there — one near the weapon evidence, one near the drugs and one near the cash and jewelry,” he said.
Gibson answered several questions from commissioners about the safe keeping of evidence, and were told there are a number of checks and balances in place so that evidence won’t be misplaced or lost. he also said there are random audits in place — McVicker requires quarterly audits and there are regional agencies, like Elizabethtown Police Department and Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, that can come in at any time and request an audit.
“We can do the same with their evidence room,” Gibson said. “It’s just another good checks and balances.”
The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office is currently three-quarters through a 100-percent audit, which Gibson said will take another week to complete.
While in the evidence room, Gibson also discussed how long evidence is kept in storage, which can range from about three months to … “well, forever, depending on the case.” he said evidence from small crime cases are in and out quickly, while evidence from high-profile cases like rape and murder can be stored far longer — often until the convicted individual is released from prison or dies in prison.
Commissioners were then led on a tour of the facility by Capt. Jeff Singletary, including stops at the administration offices, 911 Center, kitchen and the main control center overlooking the jail’s six pods — one for women, one for short stays for crimes like child support violations, and four pods for men. Each pd has shower facilities, tables for meals and skylights just outside two levels of cells.
Of interest was the fact that there are no windows in the inmate areas. There are skylights which allow inmates to know if it’s night or day, and the skylights are the only areas where there are bars.
In all, the new facility will have a capacity of 223 inmates. Bladen County currently houses about 112 inmates, leaving the county the ability to take in inmates from surrounding counties for a cost.
McVicker said the transfer of inmates would happen around mid-September.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.