Article published September 7, 1989
Architect may be hired to design county jail
The Spartanburg County Council next week will consider hiring an architect to design and oversee construction of a new jail, but county officials in the meantime may have to turn to temporary facilities to handle jail overcrowding.
Even if construction of a new jail was put on a "fast track, " County Administrator Ken Westmoreland said officials may have to find other ways to temporarily relieve overcrowding, including temporary modular jail cells. Last week, Westmoreland and Jail Director Larry Powers toured a Greenville manufacturing facility that builds fiberglass dormitories that some jurisdictions are considering as a solution to widespread jail overcrowding. While Westmoreland said Spartanburg County has not decided to seek temporary jail cells, he said it is likely the county will run out of jail space before a new jail can be completed.
"Right now, I'm not sure whether we will need (temporary jail space). But there is the likelihood that we're going to run out of space before a new facility can be built," Westmoreland said. The Spartanburg County jail has been in violation of state Department of Corrections overcrowding standards since the standards were set nine years ago. The county has a maximum capacity rating of 82 inmates. The county inmate population has often exceeded 200, records show. Inmate totals at the jail constantly exceed state standards.
On a few occasions recently, Westmoreland said, inmates in county custody have filled both the county and city jails to their limits. The county contracts with the city to house inmate overflow in the city jail. Last year that contract cost the county more than $270,000.
Westmoreland said the planning and construction of a jail will take a minimum of 27 months and could take about three years to complete. "It's more contingency planning," he said of last week's tour of the Portable Living Quarters manufacturing facility. "We don't have anything specific in mind now, but we want to see what's available in case we get to that point."
Company officials say the cost of a temporary facility to house 100 inmates is about $1.5 million. However, the county could sell the portable cells when a permanent jail is completed, they said.
Westmoreland said he is hopeful the County Council will soon hire an architect to begin designing a jail. Over the past few weeks the county administrative staff has been evaluating proposals from eight architectural companies vying for the project. Westmoreland said the staff had narrowed the selection to two of the architectural companies that have experience building jails and have completed the projects on time and under budget. He said he will suggest council members visit some of the jails designed by the two. The County Council is expected to discuss hiring an architect at its regular meeting Wednesday.