ONLY ON 3: State inspections confirm complaints about Bladen jail conditions
 

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- A trip to jail is not a visit to a luxury hotel, but there is a basic expectation of safety and health conditions.

For months, though, we've heard complaints about problems inside the Bladen County Jail, and they're not just from inmates. They're also coming from state regulators.

The latest state inspection of the Bladen County Jail happened back in August. The Department of Health and Human Services Jails and Detention Unit found problems with overcrowding, jailers missing supervision rounds, unclean cells with mold and paint chipping, moldy showers in poor condition, AC units broken and leaking and no hot water among other issues.

The inspection confirms reports we've gotten from former and current inmates; complaints they say have fallen on deaf ears inside the jail.

"Every time we write a grievance for them, they take it and throw it away," an inmate yelled to a reporter during a visit to the jail.

We've tried for month to talk with Sheriff Prentis Benston about these issues, but he refuses to talk and won't let us see inside.

"It's so nasty. That's why they won't let you come in," another inmate told us from inside the jail. "There is mold all over the place. The heat don't work. The AC don't work in here."

So in an effort to find out more, we contacted DHHS Legal Communications Coordinator Kevin Howell. He says if inspectors find a problem, the jail must respond with a plan of correction indicating how and when the issue will be fixed.

Records show Bladen County submitted a plan in September saying it had already fixed or was actively working on fixing the problems. But this is not the first time a plan of correction has been submitted. Problems were found in all four inspections over the past two years, and the problems seem to persist even after plans are submitted and inspections continued.

Howell says inspections are unannounced, but the next one is coming up soon.

County leaders have declined our requests for interviews. They responded only in a statement this month from the county attorney, who says they know there are problems with the jail, which the county hopes to fix or replace.

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I know there are imates there that have done wrong and some are good people, but no one deserves to get sick over the nasty conditions in that jail they could takes the sickness home to there familys. They painted the jail 3 weeks ago and all they did was paint over the mold did not even clean it up first. The kitchen is in need of repair and the food is not worth eating. Imates write a grievance and the employee's trash them. They don't get checked on like they should especially during the day and some employees are threatening the imates to not do anything for them such has see the doctor or even bring them water. They don't make rounds like the such this is there job and if they don't like it they to find another job. They don't care if they put you in a cell with someone they know will start a fight and hurt you just like the last time and the woman hanging herself that is just wrong none of that should have ever happen. We need a new jail and definitely new employees. ....

The Bladen County police are worthless, crooked, and rude. They basically get paid for doing nothing, but riding around all day. I encountered a rude one during a license check with a nasty attitude. Bladen County is the worst county in North Carolina.

...model them after what Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela provide for their incacerated ones. Take away TV's, workout rooms and put them through 14 hours of hard labor 7 days a week. Before you know it, you won't need nearly as many jails! Nobody in their right mind would want to go there and criminal thinking would be on the downfall.

The citizens of Bladen could save enough money to renovate the current jail or make a down payment on a new jail if they would do away with six of the nine county commissioners. Now that Bladen is not under the Voting Rights Act any longer, they can go back to a reasonable number of commissioners. With only 35,000 population, three is enough to pay. They have a very competent county manager who does all the work anyway.

The towns in Bladen County need to take a look at the number of elected officials and actually determine how many are necessary. For example, Bladenboro could easily do away with three of their six commissioners and divert that money to better use. However, start with the county commissioners first. Counties with more population have 3-5 commissioners and get along just fine. Every unnecessary elected person on the payroll siphons money that can be better used elsewhere.

Every unnecessary dollar spent on a politician is money saved. There is no excuse not to have a decent jail when money is spent on an unnecessary number of politicians.

Maybe, just maybe the very thoughts of being in such a horrible jail will make a criminal think first before he or she commits the crime. I do not feel the least bit sympathic to criminals being in a very bad place. They don't deserve to be in better places than honest, law abiding citizens who work for a living. Let them rot.

I hope you specifically are arrested and have to spend time in these cruel, inhumane conditions. Inmates are people, too. What about people who are wrongly accused? or arrested, but are too poor to make bail, and never committed the crime? since when do we treat people as guilty until proven innocent? Obviously jail shouldn't be a walk in the park, but they deserve to be fed enough, have enough room to move, beds to sleep on, medical care if necessary, have books to read, Tv to watch, and to be protected from higher level violent offenders, as well access to mental health care... all in a clean and sterile facility. that is why we pay taxes- not so sheriffs and low life cops can get fat and lazy.

When the arrest of the 8 alleged drug bust posted in the Feb 7th paper, these folks took money from many poor folks trying to have repairs done on their home. Roof leaking mostly. Where is their renovation ?

Many in jail have only been charged and some many be innocent.
Today there could be a guy there because his soon to be ex wife lied and said he assaulted her (as mine did prior to the judge saying she had no credibility and lied)
Even though I don't know you with the NC system I could have you locked up by a magistrate by saying you assaulted me.

They deserve to be treated humanely until convicted

It's not for nothing that Bladen County is known as one of the poorest and most unkempt counties in the state. Many county officials shirk their responsibilities and let things slide.

The dilapidated jail should stand as a symbol of the county's neglect.

Rural Bladen, riddled with blight, is looking worse with every passing year. It seems to me the county commissioners are just going through the motions of governing. One thing for sure: they are not going to extend themselves to get anything positive accomplished.

Were it not for WWAY, conditions at the jail would be on par with jails in Third World countries.

Bladen Co. has 24% poverty rate,30% in Robeson Co. and NC's average poverty is 16.8%. Yes, we have a lot of poverty in our region, not just our county. But ask yourself, would a new jail be the best way to spend our tax dollars? Would a new jail bring in more jobs? Or would it just house more criminals?
Look at our neighboring Robeson Co. that went from an even smaller and outdated facility to a multimillion dollar jail back in the 90's -now they have outgrown it and will have to make a decision to build another jail or addition before long.
I don't think that our county is as neglectful as you say. Some of the "blight" that you write about is located on personal property within our county and not on county or city property. I do not agree that officials aren't doing their part. Look at the cities in our county - Elizabethtown's downtown is absolutely beautiful and inviting, Bladenboro and Clarkton are doing the best with what they have to work with attempting to bring in small businesses in their downtowns whether it is a Dollar General or small gift shop, White Lake has it's seasonal boom and Tar Heel has the largest employer in our county. These things just don't occur by people "going through the motions."
The reason you say nothing positive is happening is because you are looking for the negative. If you aren't part of the solution you are part of the problem. And like Gandhi is quoted as saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Spending millions of tax dollars on a new county jail is not the solution. Education is the only way to prevent more people from entering the system. Education to prevent drug use, to get people better jobs and to stop the cycle.

You have a nice county and cute towns. These criminals are destroying your town, your life and more..... I do not believe we should spend the $$$$ needed to improve the jail. Those criminals committed the crime and they can do the time. I think we should simply pack them like sardines. Lucky for them to have a roof over their head.

Sounds better than the apartments run by New York City;

I seem to be missing your point, unless your "point" was just to gratuitously stir up some of that anti-northern resentment that occasionally pops up. I say that because your "point" obviously had no real connection to the topic of the Bladen County jail.

There's more than enough trouble around here already that you could focus on without stirring up some more for no damn good reason.

I think by human nature that we should all gripe about something, whether it is any of our business or not. I myself could care less what condition the jail is in. I have'nt been in Bladen county jail since 1985. Why, because I choose not to be arrested any more. Jesus people, the law does not randomly come out to your house and arrest you for something you did'nt do. These people more than likely done the crime. Why would you care what condition the jail was in. This is exactly why Law inforcement does not care if they find your stolen lawnmower, chainsaw, generator, or anything else that some low life has broke into your place and stole. There is no deterent to crime anymore, because people like you are so concerned about the THUGS welfare while he is awaiting trial. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!

I simply agree with you Larry. In the long run, the tax payers are giving them free room and board. Many homeless people do not have a place to sleep nor any food to eat. Many citizens cannot pay for their heating bill or their medicine. They do not have the comfort of a warm place to sleep. We have a few shelters but they also need the money to feed the folks. I agree with one of our reader that education is a key to success but not everyone make the right choice. I say no new jail and pack them in like sardines.