New leadership, $2.5M in improvements planned for S.C. jail
Officials said the improvements will produce a “culture change” that will attract high-quality candidates to the jail
By Ted Clifford
RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — County officials and jail administrators are proceeding with a plan to restructure leadership and improve security for inmates and employees at the long-blighted and chronically understaffed Richland County jail.
Among the planned improvements is a $2.5 million retrofit of the facility’s locks, a renovation to the kitchen and an overhaul of jail leadership, including the creation of a detention center compliance director position, who would be responsible for mitigating risk and ensuring compliance throughout the facility.
Interim jail director Crayman Harvey told a Richland County Council committee the improvements will produce a “culture change” that will attract high-quality candidates to the jail, which had “horrible” levels of understaffing in 2022.
“Once we ensure safety, the culture changes, and people will come work at the detention center,” Harvey told the committee.
Urgency in implementing these changes comes as an April 18 deadline looms to provide a “strategy for remedial action” to the state Department of Corrections. The corrections department delivered Richland County the ultimatum after the jail was found to have violated the same state standards, including staffing levels and unattended cells, for at least the last three years.
“These are not things we were proud of,” County Administrator Leonardo Brown told the council, as he ran through slides showing the poor state of facilities. “We’re not here trying to make excuses, we’re here trying to show the improvements that have been made to a very needed area.”
In a Jan. 19 letter to the county, Blake Taylor, the director of compliance, standards and inspections with the Department of Corrections, wrote that the state would mandate specific changes if it did not receive a satisfactory reply by April 18.
Within 90 days of the Departmern of Corrections report “we did a whole department shakeup,” Harvey told the council, adding that he is currently reviewing all 338 jail policies. In February, following an inmate’s murder, the county announced it was planning to invest upwards of $12 million in improvements to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
But key positions are still unfilled.
In a presentation before the council, Brown said the jail was still looking to find a jail director, along with the compliance director and assistant director. Brown has previously indicated that Harvey is being assessed for a permanent director position.
The goal of the new, three-tiered executive leadership structure is to ensure there is leadership at the jail “24/7, 365,” Brown said. He told the council that he intends to provide the names of candidates at the next council meeting.
However, staffing among the jail’s rank and file remains a concern. A presentation provided to the council showed that 105 detention center officer positions were still vacant, although that was down from 124 vacancies in October 2022. The jail has filled the gap in employees in part by contracting 38 positions out to a private firm, Allied Universal, at a cost of between $26,000 and $38,000 per week, according to a county spokesperson.
The first year salary for a detention officer at the jail has been raised to $40,000. However, Brown acknowledged that despite incentives for longer service built into the pay plan, the county needed to improve the jail in order to attract more employees.
“Come to Richland County, make a decent living, but more importantly you can feel safe and secure,” Brown said.
A centerpiece of the jail’s security overhaul will be the multi-million dollar replacement of the jail’s locks with a “Wedge” lock system from Willo Products Co. Under the plan, 90% of the facility’s locks will be replaced, according to Harvey. The new, heavy duty locks are designed to be tamper proof and use a a colored light to display whether the lock is engaged. With 448 doors slated to be retrofitted, that works out to roughly $5,500 per lock.
“This is something that is already moving forward,” Brown told the council.
The announcement comes less than two months after an investigation into the murder of Antonius Randolph, a detainee at the jail, revealed that many of the jail’s cell doors “do not lock, allowing inmates to come and go,” according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Randolph was allegedly murdered by five other detainees, two of whom were being held in the jail on murder charges, just days after he was arrested for sexual assault and robbery. He was the second inmate to die in Alvin S. Glenn this year.
“We’re looking to address all of our compromised units,” Brown said.
Other steps the administration has taken have included shutting down the “Special Housing Unit,” more commonly known as solitary confinement. Harvey told the council that in its place they’ve created four new classifications for housing: an older population unit, a mental health unit, a medical unit, and a behavior management unit.
The jail is also replacing old porcelain toilets and sinks with stainless steel units, upgrading dormitories and renovating the kitchen.
On Feb 2, the jail’s kitchen also received an “A” letter grade from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control after receiving a “C” in 2022.