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The keys to the former Odom Correctional Institution were handed over to Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith today.

The recently passed state budget paved the way for the prison to be conveyed to Northampton County. The facility outside Jackson has been closed since 2019.

Smith and Jail Administrator Anna Gee met with county board of commissioners Chairman Charles Tyner and state Representative Michael Wray outside the former prison to receive the keys.

“Once we get started we want to house federal inmates and misdemeanor inmates who have been sentenced,” Smith said.

Smith said the sheriff’s office would continue to house inmates for other counties such as Halifax, which operates under a cap.

The sheriff said the potential revenue for housing inmates at the former state prison is around $2 million a year.

Another idea Smith has and the final part of the plan is to use the facility to house juvenile offenders. “The last process is juveniles. Staff will have to be retrained for handling juveniles.”

There is also the potential to lease the farm on the grounds of the sprawling 64-acre facility as well as chicken houses located there.  

First, however, the facility will have to be inspected and Smith said there will be a team assembled to pore over equipment and structures to make sure they are in working order.;

“We’re going to do an inspection so we can plan on how to open,” Tyner said.

Tyner said since the facility has active water and sewer there is also the possibility of expanding infrastructure in that part of the county.

If all goes well with inspections Smith said he believes the county could begin housing inmates by summer. Housing male inmates at the Odom location would mean female inmates would be housed at the jail located at the sheriff’s office.

Tyner said using the prison as a jail means employment for people and bringing in extra revenue for the county.

“It will certainly be well used,” Wray said. “We didn’t want to see the building go down.”

With the possible economic benefits from using the facility, Tyner said, “We want to be able to look at what we’ve done and say it was for Northampton County.”