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Inmate sues over jail conditions

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NASHVILLE — An inmate with a violent criminal history behind bars on extortion charges is suing Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone for what he describes as deplorable jailhouse conditions.

Jamey Lamont Wilkins filed the lawsuit in mid-August against Stone and three high-ranking deputies involved with the administration of the county detention facility.

Stone told The Enterprise late last week that as an elected official, he expects to the target of frivolous lawsuits, but his hardworking deputies shouldn’t have to be involved in litigation.

Wilkins said in his four-page complaint that his isolation cell has human feces on the walls and ceiling with the waste falling into his hair, food and his bedding. Wilkins also claimed he has often had no choice but to drink from the toilet.

Sheriff’s Maj. Miste Strickland led this newspaper on a tour of the jail on Friday. The cells have washbasins with county system water on top of the bowls where tanks are located in regular toilets.

Several inmates said Friday they’ve never had to drink out the toilet bowls. One inmate said if there is feces in Wilkins’ cell, then it probably belongs to him.

Wilkins claims guards left him to die in his smoke-filled cell in July during two fires set by inmates; deputies admit inmate-set fires are a problem but said no one is ever left to die.

Wilkins, 39, is in jail on a charge of extortion and a probation violation for allegedly being out of the county. He also has court dates in Caswell County for charges of possession with intent to sell and deliver heroin, Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances; attempting to provide contraband, tobacco and a cellphone to an inmate; and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, totaling 11 separate counts, according to the state’s online criminal court calendar.

Wilkins’ criminal conviction history includes malicious conduct by a prisoner, robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and drug possession.

Wilkins’ street names include “Skinny Pimp” and “Wazo,” according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

Most of Wilkins’ allegations are nonsense, but the facility is in need of an overhaul, Stone said, adding that overcrowding is a real issue.

Last expanded in 1999, as of Friday the jail housed 192 male and 32 female inmates. Several other inmates are being kept in other facilities because the Nash jail doesn’t have adequate secure holding areas, Stone said.

Stone said the irony hasn’t escaped him that he’s being sued for problems he’s previously pointed out while campaigning for jail improvements.

The county issued an Aug. 27 request for proposals for security system updates including 55 to 75 new security cameras for the jail. The county board approved funding for the work months ago after Stone complained about the jail’s conditions.

“The Nash County Sheriff’s Office has expressed a number of concerns regarding operations at the Nash County Detention Facility,” the proposal request states. “More specifically, the increase in and nature of the inmate population, the challenges attracting and retaining detention facility staff due to safety concerns, the presence of blind spots in the facility and in the inmate housing and recreational areas, two incidents related to inmates escaping from the facility in both March and May 2019, and challenges identifying inmates involved in altercations and/or other incidents in the facility point to the need for additional surveillance capabilities for use by staff. At present, there are approximately 60 video cameras located in the facility. This project is intended to build upon and augment the existing video surveillance system that is in place in order to address the aforementioned concerns.”