Article published July 29, 1992
County wants to increase jail capacity
Faced with a jail population that at times has surged over 300, county officials have asked the state to relax standards to allow more than the 240 inmates the new jail was designed to hold.
The county wants to increase the rated capacity of the new jail to 392 inmates.
They propose housing two inmates to a cell in about half the jail and converting a planned warehouse area into a dormitory for 24 inmate-trusties, said Blake Taylor, director of Audits and Inspections for the Department of Corrections.
The Department of Corrections has approved the concept of converting the warehouse space into a dormitory, Taylor said. But under state standards, the cells in the new jail would not be large enough for two inmates.
County officials are hoping to take advantage of a recent revision in national standards, which are more lenient than the state standards, he said.
"We have agreed to review that and take it under consideration, and that's what we are doing right now. It will be a precedent-setting situation. It's more than just Spartanburg," Taylor said.
The request, which was submitted about 10 days ago, does not call for any changes in the design of the jail, so the decision by the state will not influence construction.
A ruling is expected by early August, Taylor said.
The $13.7 million jail, which is in the early stages of construction at California Avenue and Howard Street, is scheduled for occupancy in January 1994.
State standards for new jails do not allow more than half of the inmates awaiting trial to be in multiple-occupancy cells. Single cells must be 70 square feet, and cells with more than one inmate must have at least 50 square feet per inmate.
The cells of the new jail will be about 83.5 square feet each, which is large enough for two inmates under standards of the American Correctional Association, but not the state standards, county officials said.
County officials were aware at the time they developed plans for the 240-bed jail that it would not be adequate to house the growing jail population, but they lacked funds to build a larger facility, County Council Chairman David Dennis said.
"Whatever we build, they'll fill it up. We're going to build what our budget allows us to build," he said. Dennis said he was confident the state would approve the request to double-cell inmates. He also said the county would continue using the old Sullivan Hardware building as a jail annex.
The county has gotten approval from the state to continue using the annex if some improvements are made to the building, including upgrading the sprinkler system, Taylor said.
The county plans to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 for a new sprinkler system and continue housing up to 120 inmates in the annex after the new jail is built, Dennis said. A temporary occupancy permit that has allowed the county to use the annex to alleviate overcrowding while a new jail is being built will expire in early 1994.