The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

Town Talk

Commissioners debate over new detention center design

The Orange County Board of Commissioners was presented with two floor plans for a new detention facility to be built in Hillsborough at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Sheriff Charles Blackwood and Dan Mace, the vice president of Moseley Architects, the building company of the new detention center, presented the two floor plans to the board and fielded questions from the commissioners.

Floor plan A, called “Spindle with Mezzanine” costs about $1 million to $2 million less than floor plan B, called the “Rear Chase Single Level,” however, floor plan B is about 2,000 to 3,000 square feet larger.

The language of the discussion made it very clear local law enforcement and Mace preferred option B to option A.

“Mezzanine floor plans are very institutional looking," Mace said. "With option B, you get a lot of natural day lighting, which positively affects inmate behavior in these housing units. It contributes to their mental health. I think it makes a definite positive impact on the inmates.”

Commissioner Barry Jacobs agreed with Mace.

“It’s like children in school — the more natural lighting the better sense of well-being,” Jacobs said.

Blackwood was more forward with his opinion on option B versus option A.

“I mean, I can tell you what I prefer, but at the end of the day it’s all of us that decide,” Blackwood said.

Option B included several multi-purpose rooms to be used in any way the detention center sees fit. This added bonus helps Orange County pursue more progressive jail policies, as the rooms could be used for classrooms, religious meetings and other constructive activities.

Mace and Blackwood said the detention center can also be used as a processing center, a general law enforcement center or even a court house, to shorten the time usually spent transferring inmates from police station to court house to detention center.

The new jail will be built in such a way to allow for future expansion, yet expansion is not something Blackwood and local enforcement hope will occur.

“We can talk about the need for expansion in the future, but with the programs that we’re talking about putting in place, it is my hope that we won’t have to expand,” Blackwood said. “Begin with the end in mind. It’s my hope that our programs will limit the potential growth of this center.”

As for the old jail, many board members expressed concern over its fate once it is vacated and the new Hillsborough jail assumes its role.

“The current jail is a 90-year-old historic building,” Jacobs said.


November 2015 is now Orange County Congregations in Missions month. A resolution was proposed to create an Indigenous People's Day for the town of Carrboro, and a petition to the chair was made in support of Sunday voting hours (Souls to the Polls). 


"It could be a bed and breakfast, and you could serve the guests bread and water to get a really authentic experience," Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said about the future of the current Hillsborough jail. 


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