Wilkes County Dedicates New Jail

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — Wilkes County correctional officials celebrated the dedication of a new 58,000-square-foot jail on Oct. 22. The new $12.6 million facility will house up to 264 inmates when it begins operations later this month, allowing correctional officials to practice proper inmate segregation and classification for the first time in years.

The original 1970s-era Wilkes County Jail held just 48 inmates and was later renovated to serve 68. As crowding increased, the sheriff’s department also purchased a second building to house female inmates. Eventually, the department was spread across seven different facilities.

Despite the added space, it was still not enough to keep pace with the county’s growing correctional needs. By 2010, the jail was serving up to 100 inmates on a regular basis, forcing the county to house inmates in a facility in nearby Ashe, as well as facilities in other counties. This method has increased the county’s correctional expenses by roughly $2.56 million since September 2010, according to the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

In preparation for both present and future correctional needs, the new Wilkes County Jail includes eight, adjoining, pod-style housing blocks, including one dormitory outfitted with bunk beds and capable of housing up to 160 inmates. More traditional two-person cells were also included in the design and will serve up to 80 inmates. Twenty-four, single-person cells will be reserved for isolation and lockdown purposes, while those inmates identified by correctional officials as a potential threat to themselves will be placed in one of the facility’s three padded cells.

More than 100 interior and exterior security cameras have also been positioned throughout the facility and will be monitored by guards in two separate control towers. Those control towers also give correctional staff direct views of the housing blocks, as well as the common areas.

Though the jail also features a secure sallyport and an enclosed walkway that leads directly to the adjacent courthouse, a kitchen was not included in the design. Instead, the jail will have meals delivered.

The facility will employ more than 30 correctional staff members, the majority of whom will be reallocated from other facilities that will close when the new facility officially opens. Those facilities include the existing men’s and women’s detention centers, as well as a day reporting center. At least five new employees will also be hired.

Vannoy Construction of Jefferson, N.C. served as the project’s construction manager, while Hemphill-Randel Associates of Charlotte, N.C. was the project’s lead architect. Both firms received generous praise at the dedication event.