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Stabbings, fight, fires reported inside jail

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NASHVILLE — A violent stabbing, a brawl and several fires set in the last few days demonstrate the need for upgraded facilities and more staff at the Nash County Detention Center, said Sheriff Keith Stone.

Two inmates were seriously injured during a stabbing last week. The inmates had to be airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

The same day as the stabbings, a fight broke out and at least four fires were set in the past week, Stone said.

“They had three fires in one day,” Stone said. “They were burning jumpsuits and linen.”

In another fire, inmates took the batteries out of a television remote control and used a metal strip from a potato chip bag to create an arc to ignite toilet paper, Stone said.

In another incident, inmates tossed their urine at detention officers.

The incidents occurred on the heels of a consultant visiting the Nash County Detention Center.

Brad Hompe, an independent justice consultant, spent two days examining the jail. Contracted through the National Institute of Corrections, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons, Hompe visited the jail at Stone’s request.

“We wanted to have someone look at the jail and do a progression of where we need to be at,” Stone said.

Hompe said the jail has strengths and weaknesses.

“The positive is that the sheriff and his staff see the need to have the assessment done,” Hompe said. “They are concerned and want to do the right thing. They have done a number of things here in the county. They have a large camera project underway. They are looking at a new jail management system. And they appointed a new captain. They are assessing jail contracts and health care. Those are all good things.”

However, Hompe said a full assessment can’t be accomplished in just two days. He recommended the formation of a criminal justice committee to assess future needs. That could mean a recommendation for changes, renovations, additions or a new building.

“There are some immediate needs to address the safety of the staff and inmates, and we need to address those,” Hompe said.

The Nash County Detention Center had two jailbreaks this year, leading to a dormitory area being closed for renovations.

“There are certain parts of the jail that they are not using right now that are not safe,” Hompe said.

Nash County Manager Zee Lamb said county officials welcome Hompe’s input.

“We will use this information along with other information we are gathering to decide how best to address the needs that have been identified,” Lamb said. “I think we need to do a comprehensive assessment and we will use this information as a piece of that input to move forward.”