Article published March 17, 1991
New county jail annex opened to the publicBy ROBIN URIS, Staff Writer
Spartanburg County Detention Facility Director Larry Powers says the new county jail annex has many features of the jail of the future. Yesterday, it was open for public tours. The spacious, well-lit jail has no bars but will hold 130 inmates. Thick, yellow lines drawn on the floor are all that separate the prisoners from the jail officer who will be stationed in each room. Crossing those lines is forbidden.
The new concept is called direct supervision. And, while the jail may look more pleasant, Powers says the system is just as effective as the steel bars of the past. "Jails all over the country are doing this," Powers said. "It works." The rooms are spartan, but color coordinated. There is no trace of the institutional, sickly green paint that covers the walls of the old jail.
In one room, health department pamphlets containing everything from AIDS information to breast examination instructions line the walls. A program coordinator also will use the room to schedule general equivalency diploma classes, family planning sessions and courses in parenting skills.
The jail will house prisoners who don't pose a security risk. All booking will be done at the old jail and, if a prisoner becomes a discipline problem, he will be returned to the old jail. "It's a good idea to separate the ones who come in for armed robbery from those who write fraudulent checks," Wofford says. "This is a place for low-security inmates only. When we're done, there should be no more minimum security people at the old jail."
There are separate rooms for sentenced and nonsentenced inmates. The trusties, or inmates who were issued jobs due to good behavior, have their own quarters equipped with lockers.
"This is a different idea," said Officer Denise Wofford. "Inmates tend to cooperate more in this type of atmosphere. I guess they feel more like people. People relate better when they aren't talking through bars." But Wofford warns that the new facility is still a jail, and inmates will still be expected to follow orders or face disciplinary action.
"There's always a bad apple in every batch who won't listen," Wofford said. "This isn't summer camp, even though it looks nicer than the old jail. We don't plan to put up with any bad apples."
The new jail has no "drunk tank," an ominous-looking steel room used to house those who arrive in jail in various states of intoxication. It does however, have handicapped-accessible bathrooms and separate areas for sick prisoners.
The new annex is equipped with a medical examination room, a conference room and a fully-equipped gym for the officers.
"One thing is no different,"
Wofford says. "There's a clock in every holding room. Prisoners tend to
watch the time a lot."