Article published April 8, 2002
Powers nearing 20-year mark as jail director
MILESTONE: Law enforcement veteran has seen the good, the bad over course of his careerBy TERESA KILLIAN, staff writer
Jail Director Larry Powers still has the small notebooks where he noted every incident he responded to in his early years in law enforcement.
Today he has boxes of letters and articles about high points and tough times during his work with law enforcement. His career hits a milestone this week, when he marks 20 years as director of the Spartanburg County jail on Saturday. Powers explains his success as being "in the right place at the right time." The records, though, tell of long hours, achievements, times of transition and determination to improve how everything works.
Powers' career began as a city reserve officer in 1972. He worked as a state constable and joined the Sheriff's Office in 1974. Early on, his contributions drew recognition. One of the first commendation letters he saved is dated November 1974 for his assistance at Spartanburg Methodist College.
During the course of his career, Powers has been responsible for a range of tasks -- including leading the SWAT team. His career has been peppered with such work as guiding the Sheriff's Office to purchase its first computer for $69,000.
Then, on April 12, 1982, he took the helm at a jail that then housed 114. Less than a year after he took over leadership of the facility, inmates were wearing coveralls or jump suits and leather sandals. Before that, inmates wore their own clothes. Family members sometimes smuggled contraband in through the seams. He was the director when a prisoner escaped through a hole in the recreation area fence in 1984. He was there in 1985 when 226 people arrested at a concert were brought to the jail. He described it to a reporter then as a "riot situation." The flood of inmates broke windowpanes, damaged a fence and vandalized some of the recreation equipment. "They tore my jail up," Powers said. He handled the fallout in 1986 after several attempted suicides. Powers was at the helm in 1987 when fans were purchased to combat the heat at the jail. He advocated expansion and now supervises a staff of 176 and takes responsibility for a detention center that serves up to 630 inmates.
His staff has taken on more responsibilities, including prisoner transport, transport of juveniles and guarding inmates in hospital care, he said. "We're always striving to professionalize," Powers said.
He has been honored in professional organizations and has received recognition from the American Jail Association. Spartanburg County Councilman Rock Adams can attest to Powers' dedication to the job.
"He's one of the best wardens in the state of South Carolina," Adams said. "He runs a very efficient job there." Powers doesn't seek the spotlight, Adams said, and leads in an easy-going manner that "gets the job done."
Teresa Killian can be reached at 582-4511, Ext. 7214, or firstname.lastname@example.org.