Wake County jails near capacity; sheriff calls for long-term fix

Tom George Image
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Sheriff calls for long-term fix as jails near capacity
The Sheriff of Wake County urged county leaders to invest in a long term fix to help overcrowding at the Wake County Detention Center.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Sheriff of Wake County urged county leaders to invest in a long-term fix for the local jail.

Sheriff Willie Rowe said the population boom in Wake County is affecting more than just businesses and schools. It's also forcing changes at the detention center.

The small detention center downtown and the larger one on Hammond Road are inching closer to capacity.

Rowe said the number of people inside the facilities fluctuates every day, as people are booked in and released. But as deputies step up their efforts in Wake County, and continue to house some people arrested by adjacent law enforcement agencies, the number of people behind bars is steadily rising.

Rowe said reports of people locked in the facility having to sleep on the floor aren't exactly accurate. He said there are policies in place to allow jail workers to add additional bedding outside normal cell blocks in some circumstances.

"We house inmates in cells, and sometimes due to limited space, we have to house them outside of the cells," Rowe said. "So we provide bedding that's placed in the open areas, and that's where they'll be sleeping."

One way to alleviate the buildup, according to Rowe, would be to reopen the jail annex. That would quickly add more than 200 beds

A longer-term fix, which Rowe hopes county leaders will consider sooner rather than later, is approving a larger expansion project allowing close to 900 beds.

Rowe said his department is also taking a look at the court level, focusing on advocating for pre-trial reform. The hope is that this type of reform could help alleviate a significant portion of the strain on the jail system.