CBS 17 takes tour of Nash County jail after inmate-started fire becomes latest incident

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NASHVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Sheriff Keith Stone continues to call for upgrades to the Nash County Detention Center. He said it’s a matter of safety for his officers and the inmates.

Stone oversees the jail, which houses upwards of 300 people on any given day.

As CBS 17 has reported, six inmates escaped from the facility in recent months.

This week, an inmate used wires inside a light fixture and toilet paper to start three fires.

Stone allowed CBS 17 into the jail to show how the facility is run and what needs to be done to make it safer.

(Amy Cutler/CBS 17)

“We don’t have any lockdown facilities. It’s just an open bay. Gang members that are gang members are in here. This is where they can continue the gang activity. It’s just chaos. You have 50 people in here,” Stone said.

The oldest section of the jail was built in 1976. It’s open. There are no private cells. The ceilings are low and the hallways narrow.

“They could grab us easy. They could grab my taser. I mean, that’s why I try to walk away from the bars. In some situations you have to get close to them,” Officer Larry Hedgepath said.

Stone also showed CBS 17 the newer addition built in 1984. It’s more like a dorm.

One inmate was quick to share his concerns. He said he’d been jumped.

“You’re not looked after the way you’re supposed to be looked after,” said the inmate, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Stone said there’s not enough space to separate low-level offenders from higher-level ones.

All of them are put together.

“If an inmate has bad behavior here, he continues doing bad behavior. I have nowhere to put him for solitary confinement,” the sheriff said.

(Amy Cutler/CBS 17)

He explained that’s usually how an inmate would be punished for bad behavior.

All of it adds up to a high turnover rate among detention officers.

In recent months, the county has started a committee to oversee upgrades.

It set aside $550,000.

Public Utilities & Facilities Director Jonathan Boone said they plan to install additional surveillance cameras and repair the fence where prisoners escaped.

“It really depends on the person asking. I think the sheriff feels like there’s a near term need,” Boone said of the timeline for the upgrades. “Any building requires maintenance. Issues do come up.”

Stone said they’re spending about $12,000 a month to house violent offenders elsewhere. He also said he’s working with county commissioners and hopes plans will continue to move forward.

The county manager could not be reached for comment.

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