Article published March 13, 2010
Jail drops visits during upgradesBy Craig Peters
Inmate visitation at the Spartanburg County jail will be suspended for about three weeks starting Sunday so that contractors can install energy-efficient lighting and commodes, faucets and shower heads that conserve water.
Director Larry Powers said the changes are part of a larger plan to make all county buildings more energy and water efficient and already have occurred in public areas of the jail. He said a plan of shuffling inmates to empty housing units had to be incorporated so that crews can make the installations and prevent "fixtures from falling on an inmate, or inmates from getting ahold of a tool they shouldn't."
The jail has six housing units called pods. Powers said all female inmates will be moved from Pods 1 and 2 to the old jail near the courthouse Sunday. Crews will begin the changes Monday until all installations in Pods 1 and 2 are complete.
Detention officers then will sweep Pods 1 and 2 to make sure that tools, parts, wire or other possible contraband have not been left behind.
Inmates from Pod 3 then will be moved into Pods 1 and 2 while the crews move to Pod 3 and repeat the process until it is ready to receive inmates from Pod 4, and so on. The entire installation is expected to take about two to three weeks.
Powers said stopped-up sewage lines have forced brief relocation in the past, but this will be the first time inmates have been shuffled in such a manner.
The decision to suspend visitation was made in an effort to avoid discrimination, which would violate state and federal laws, Powers said. The area where all female inmates will be housed no longer has visitation areas. They were removed about 10 years ago.
The suspension "is one of those things we really can't help," Powers said. "We were debating how to run visitation, and having none for females wouldn't be fair. We are not supposed to discriminate."
Powers said the only other option was transporting female inmates to the main jail on California Avenue for Saturdays and Sundays, but the extended transportation and overtime costs made that an unattractive option.
Although visitation by family and friends will be suspended until the installations are complete, Powers said inmates with privileges will still have access to the canteen, telephone and television. All inmates, he said, will retain access to U.S. mail (unless it has been suspended with cause) and visitation from attorneys.
Visitation is scheduled to resume April 3 and 4 for women, and April 5 for men.