Article published June 7, 1987
Council studying county jail crowdingBy MIKE SMITH
Spartanburg County Council is turning its attention to replacing the county's overcrowded jail, a project some council members say they have been dragging their feet on.
Membership of a jail advisory committee will be finalized Wednesday, according to County Council Chairman Lach Hyatt, who will be chairman of the committee.
Council members requested that the committee examine all its options before designing and contracting for a new jail, according to County Administrator Ken Westmoreland.
A draft list of members of the committee consists of council members; Westmorland; county attorney Roy McBee Smith; Circuit Solicitor Homan Gossett; Public Defender T. Louis Cox; Spartanburg Chief of Police W.C. Bain; Chief Magistrate Edward Overcash; Family Court Judge Tom Foster; Sheriff Larry Smith; Warden Larry Powers; an architect; a representative of the County Bar Association; a representative of the state Department of Corrections; Jail Ministerial Council John Haynes; an Administrative judge for the 7th Judicial Circuit; Circuit Judge E.C. Burnett; former chief Justice Bruce Littlejohn; a representative of the construction industry; and several at-large members.
In addition, council members Sallie Peake has recommended that television personality Nancy Welch be placed on the committee.
Hyatt said the committee will consist of 25 or 26 members when it is finalized. The general function of the committee will be to provide data to the council, but specific duties for the committee have not been outlined, he said.
All those who use or provide services in the jail have been included so that no need which should be incorporated into the design of the jail is overlooked, Westmoreland said.
Mrs. Peake said it is about time the council started work on the jail.
"I think we should move forward as quickly as possible. We know we have to have it, so why keep dragging," she said.
Councilman David Dennis agreed. "I keep bringing it up, and there seems to be agreement that we need to move ahead on it, but nothing gets done," he said.
Councilman Danny Smith said County Council did not actually put off the new jail issue, but misplaced its priorities in dealing with the renovation of the old Sears plaza building for a county administrative office complex before dealing with the problem of the jail.
The county jail is rated by the state Department of Corrections to hold 82 prisoners but housed an average of 119.5 per day for the first nine months of the current fiscal year, according to Powers.
The county has been cited several times for overcrowding at the jail, but Powers said the state has not ordered the county to construct a new jail.
Westmoreland said some studies have been done, and although no formal decisions have been made, the consensus of council is to build grounds and to build a "direct supervision" facility.
A direct supervision facility does not have long rows of cells lining a corridor. Instead, cells or beds are located around a lobby or guard station so that all cells are watched by guards at all times.
Council members said the county may be able to renovate the old facility and add to it. Smith said the old jail could be renovated for minimum security prisoners and a new facility constructed for maximum security prisoners.
Peake said she would like to see the jail built through a joint government-private plan such as a lease purchase plan.