Two years after county officials broke ground on it, construction is expected to wrap up on the new jail in Burke County in a few months .

Harry Twilley, field superintendent for Vannoy Construction Company, said construction on the new jail on Government Drive in Morganton is about 80 percent completed. He anticipates it being completed — barring anything unforeseen happening — in early to mid-September.

County officials and The News Herald visited the jail this week to see the progress on the facility. Much of the jail has taken shape but flooring and doors still need to be installed, painting, and outfitting the kitchen — the exhaust hood is installed.

After construction is done, the jail will have to be cleaned and go through inspections, which Twilley said would take roughly six weeks.

After the inspections of the new jail, staffing and training will need to take place, said Burke County Manager Bryan Steen.

Steen said the average number of inmates Burke County sees in a day is roughly between 140 and 170. That includes those in the downtown jail and Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility, as well as those who have been transported to another county.

Burke County Commissioner Chairman Johnnie Carswell said the goal is for Burke County to use about two-thirds of the new 256-bed jail and the rest of the beds will be rented out to other counties.

Officials say they expect the jail to open in December. When inmates are moved from the 176-bed Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility, which the county has owned jointly with Catawba County, to the new jail, that facility will continue to be used. However, Carswell said it won’t be used as a jail.

“This is the jail,” Carswell said of the new jail.

The downtown jail at the courthouse will be used during the day as holding cells for inmates who have court appearances scheduled.

The jail will house men and women and will have a section for juveniles. Central control towers will allow officers to keep an eye on multiple pods, with most having 20 rooms with two inmates to a room. The pods also include day rooms and showers. Female officers will be assigned to female inmate pods and male officers will be assigned to male inmate pods. Family members who visit an inmate will communicate with them in a similar fashion to Skype or FaceTime.

Burke County broke ground on the new jail in September 2017.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at or at 828-432-8946.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily newsletter.

Recommended for you