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.

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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.