FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — After a 17-month construction process, Cumberland County officials recently celebrated the dedication of the expanded Cumberland County Detention Center. The roughly $15 million project wrapped up last month, and correctional staff began moving inmates into the new and improved facility immediately following the dedication.
The expansion project was approved as a result of overcrowding concerns, despite the fact that the original jail structure was only completed 11 years ago. Prior to construction, the jail was designed told hold up to 568 inmates, but regularly housed more than 700. This crowding made it increasingly difficult for correctional officers to keep co-defendants, family members of victims and other related inmates separated. However, the new addition and improvement project has substantially increased the facility’s capacity, allowing it to now serve up to 884 inmates comfortably.
Prior to seeking bids for the project, county commissioners, experts from the National Institute of Corrections, the N.C. secretary of correction and other officials gathered to review and debate possible solutions to the overcrowding problem. Though attendees proposed several options, such as consolidating operations with a neighboring county, contracting a neighboring county to house a certain amount of inmates, or even contracting with a private prison management group, county officials ultimately decided new construction was the best plan of action.
Though the jail was originally set to open in November, construction crews had to contend with heavy rains through June, significantly delaying the project. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, which was also delayed several times on account of weather, Cumberland County Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler thanked his staff for continuing to successfully operate the facility despite the persistent crowding issues. “A lot of times they don’t get much credit,” Butler said. “But they’re here day in and day out. The way they manage 740 people with 568 beds, that tells you the management we have.”
County commissioners and correctional officials took a walking tour of the facility during the dedication, moving from the old facility into the new addition by way of a connecting hallway staff now refer to as “the green mile.” The new addition also features a 60-bed segregation unit and four dormitory style halls reserved for non-violent offenders able to house 64 inmates each. According to Cumberland County Jail Administrator Maj. Larry Trotter, inmates forced to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding were the first to be relocated into the new facility.
Butler added that, despite the expansion, the jail will not be taking in inmates that have been charged with misdemeanors from neighboring counties, referring to a state program instituted in 2012 which encouraged counties with excess bed space to offer it to those experiencing shortages. The sheriff cited the fact that costs to house such inmates actually outweigh reimbursement rates.
The Cumberland County Detention Center was designed by Moseley Architects. Balfour Beatty and Metcon were jointly awarded the construction manager at risk contract. To finance the new expansion the county used both reserve funds and allocated tax dollars, eliminating the need for loans.