Article published December 15, 1986
Warden changes for better
By ELIZABETH FORTNER, staff writer
Larry Powers does not fit the mold of a brash, militant jail warden.
He is a friendly, soft-spoken man who set ambitious goals for himself when he became warden at Spartanburg County Jail in 1982.
During the past four years, he believes, many changes have been made to improve the conditions for inmates and to increase the qualifications and responsibilities of the jail's staff.
Powers became director of the county detention facility in April, 1982. A year before, the jail had been investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and a Spartanburg County grand jury after complaints about cleanliness and security. The facility has been free of such probes during Power's stay.
his first concern was cleaning the jail, a chore he tackled soon after taking office. Now the faciiity, although aging, shines - from cells to the scrubbed floors. The spacious kitchen meets the same quality requirements as any restaurant.
The jail furnishes clothing and toilet articles to the inmates and does all the laundry. This has increased the jail's cleanliness and also has decreased the amount of contraband entering the jail through personal clothing brought to prisoners by relatives and friends.
Powers also has worked on the overcrowding problem in the 113-bed facility. He has met with the courts and the solicitor's office to try to reduce the length of stay for most prisoners and has seen it cut from six months to about four.
Powers has seen to it that serving time in jail does not mean wasting away the hours. Television sets are provided for all 15 cells but are considered a privilege in the new reward system he established.
Smoking, watching television, and buying food from the jail's canteen are privileges given to inmates based on their behavior. Cooperative prisoners are even treated to an occasional videotape movie chosen by the jail officials.
The jail pays for the toilet articles and television sets with money generated through canteen sales. The method of payment was set up in 1982 by Powers as a way to provide other activities for the prisoners without using taxpayers' dollars.
Powers has worked to furnish the jail with a library, consisting mostly of paperbacks donated by area bookstores and churches. He and Spartanburg County Adult Education program officials two years ago established a program in which inmates can earn a Graduate Equivalent Diploma. Five inmates have since received their GED.
Through a chaplain program he established last year with John Hayes, a Methodist minister, inmates may now attend regular worship services.
Another change underway at the jail is a new discipline program that seeks to promote more respect between jail officers and inmates.
Officers now address the inmates with a "Mister" before their last name, and the inmates are asked to reciprocate when speaking to the officers.
While he remains proud of the strides he has made in improving conditions for inmates, he has a special desire to care for his staff.
"It can be pretty depressing working in a jail, and I want to start a program to give incentive for good attendance," Powers said.