ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA-TV) – The Anderson County detention Center is more than double its capacity for inmates.
According to jail officials, that opens the door for major liability, not only for the inmates, but the people who work there on a daily basis.
“It just boils down to math. We are running in the 400s right now. We’re ready for 257 inmates,” said Captain Garry Bryant with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.
Where some cells should safely house 4 inmates, those are often holding more than 12. That overcrowding is leading to tension and fights. There were about 90 incidents in 2016 alone.
“The employees don’t feel safe,” said Bryant.
It is a liability, but convincing the public of the need for a new jail is a tough sell, Bryant feels.
“We hear a lot of people say, “well, throw them under the jail.” The fact of the matter is, we can’t do that. They are in the jail. What we want to do is return a better person to society than we did on the intake,” said Bryant.
They want to offer programs to help inmates battle drug and alcohol issues or get a GED. Bryant said something that reduces the recidivism rate and creates productive tax payers.
“The reality of it is, there’s no space to offer programs in our jail because, literally, not every square foot, but every square inch is packed with inmates,” said Bryant.
To help resolve these issues, Anderson County is looking into participating in a Department of Justice study. It is the same one used by Pickens County since 2014, leading to the groundbreaking of a new jail next week.
County Councilman Ray Graham believes by unifying the voice of county agencies who use the jail and identifying what they need to make the jail run better, it could ultimately save taxpayer dollars long term.
“I think it makes perfect sense to do the feasibility study and basically insure that when we are spending the tax dollars, we are spending them to the most efficiency for the county,” said Graham.
The council and the Sheriff’s office say it also brings the community in, allowing their take on the best moves for a safe facility.
“That’s all we want to do was run a safe, compliant jail, (and) offer some programs that we can turn inmates out better tomorrow than they are today,” said Graham.
When Pickens County breaks ground and their new jail this week, it’ll be about two years to the date to the start of their own federal study. Anderson County says that’ll be about the same timeline for their study and will determine if a new jail is needed in Anderson County.
Currently, new jail estimates range from 35 to 60 million, according to county officials.