PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – After 45 years of housing inmates, Sheriff Rick Clark says the Pickens county jail has done its time.
“When we came in in 2013, we identified the jail as our #1 safety concern especially for our officers and the people we have to house there,” he said.
He said overcrowding is a big concern — when a jail for about 90 inmates sometimes houses over 200.
“Fights are our biggest thing just because of that many people in that small a space,” said
He says operating beyond capacity helped spark a fight back in April where a mob attacked two inmates and one of them filed a lawsuit. But, Sheriff Clark says they’ve needed a new building long before that.
“We’re not meeting department of corrections standards at this point so what we’re looking at a new facility,” he said.
Pickens Council vice chairman Trey Whitehurst says he didn’t always support spending taxpayer dollars on people accused of breaking the law.
“It’s not a popular thing to build a jail,” he said. But he said it’s best from a safety standpoint and makes financial sense, too.
“We can’t put the employees of Pickens county at risk,” he said. “We can spend money fighting lawsuits or we can say we need to get it solved.”
The $7.8 million bond unanimously approved Monday will only go towards the new jail. The rest of the roughly 20 million dollars will come from the county’s reserves.
“They’re innocent until proven guilty and that’s what our constitution is based on and that’s why we protect them every day carrying out the constitution,” said Sheriff Clark.
There’s no set timeline yet as to when work will start on the jail. They’re now in the design phase for the facility. But the sheriff says they could be breaking ground next year.