Article published June 13, 1995
County considers options to ease crowded jail
A "soaring" inmate population may force Spartanburg County to find ways other than jail to punish non-violent criminals, County Council members said.
While reviewing the detention budget Monday, County Administrator Roland Windham said the new 436-bed jail has been booked to capacity since its opening in August 1994, and the old jail is holding the overflow. "Our inmate population is soaring," Windham said. "We're up to at least 450 inmates a day."
Councilman Danny Allen said the council must appoint a committee of council members, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges to discuss programs like electronic home monitoring to replace jail terms for non-violent offenders. "With the amount (jailing criminals) costs us, we can't keep up," Allen said. "Either that, or we're going to have to build another pod (on the new jail)."
The proposed total jail budget is up nearly 10 percent over last year's budget, moving from $3.9 million to $4.3 million recommended for 1996. Much of that increase is attributed to inmate population, Windham said. The jail operating budget, which does not include personnel costs, is rising 45 percent, from $730,000 to $1,060,000. The budget for feeding prisoners, $310,000 last year, is being increased to $500,000, a 61 percent increase. The county also will spend more than $200,000 on overtime for detention officers this year. That is half the county's entire budget for overtime.
The overtime problem may prompt the council to switch detention officers from an overtime pay scale that pays time and a half for any work over 40 hours per week to "flex time," which calculates hours worked over a 28-day period. That switch would save the county about $75,000 a year, Windham said.
Council Chairman David Dennis said he agrees that non-violent criminals, such as bad check writers or people behind on child support, should be given alternative punishment. Violent criminals should be given swifter justice and harsher treatment in jail, Dennis said. "We need to do like Alabama, and put them out there on the roads and put the chains on them," Dennis said.