S.C. County Leaders Want a New Jail as Overcrowding Worsens

By Lisa Kopochinski

ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C.— Anderson County officials recently agreed to spend up to $30,000 for a study to determine what kind of jail is needed to alleviate the current overcrowding problem.

The current 63-year-old jail was originally built to house approximately 250 inmates. In early November, it had a population of 430 inmates.

“We’re in crisis conditions. We’re in a critical phase to put any more lipstick on that pig,” Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns told Anderson Independent Mail. “I really think the council is ready to move forward on a problem that is not getting better.”

While the study is not expected to be completed until January 1, preliminary budget discussions in a council finance committee meeting in early December indicated that a new jail could cost at least $40 million.

Panel Chairman Councilman Craig Wooten said he wants to get a clear picture of the county’s existing and future debt.

“It’s sort of a cigar box mentality. Is there money in the box? Can we spend it? Some of the decisions coming at us are five, 10, 20-year decisions.”

When Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride took office in January 2017, he told local media at that time that a new jail was needed. However, the projected cost of $35 million to $60 million garnered concerns and less-than-sympathetic responses, from some officials and members of the public.

For more than 10 years, the Department of Corrections’ Office of Compliance, Standards and Inspections has cited Anderson County’s jail for failing to meet state requirements.

“We’re going to maximize our resources to the best of our abilities, whatever our resources are,” McBride said in an interview.

“Our detention officers are amazing people, and I would say we have one of the cleanest jails in the state, because we don’t want somebody to get a bug and then have everybody in there get sick. But having a clean jail doesn’t change that we are grossly overpopulated.”

McBride added that a jail is not for making inmates comfortable, but to make everyone safe.