DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - It is a Dorchester County addition that cost a pretty penny, $23 million to be exact. The county moved its existing jail in St. George to a newly built facility in Summerville.
Why couldn't they do renovations? Why didn't they just expand? Those are some of the many questions Dorchester County residents are asking after the hefty price tag.
The St. George jail may have seen some renovations over recent years, but the Dorchester County detention director says this new facility was long overdue. When he stepped in eight years ago, he knew something had to be done.
"We reached a point to where we were spending everyday tremendous amounts of money for maintenance and upkeep," Van Doran said.
The halls are humid, welcoming mold and rust.
"You had air conditioning vents but you did not have air returns which caused a major humidity problem within the building," Van Doran said.
He has never seen the jail below capacity, it has always been overcrowded. Two-person cells had additional bunks bolted in and/or blue, plastic beds placed inside to squeeze in as many people as possible.This was one of the driving forces for funding the new facility.
"There was 309 people in the facility at the time that I became the director and this facility is only rated for 156 people," Van Doran said.
The old facility had maximum capacities of 16 people in the womens quarter, 140 for the mens, 20 for maximum security, two small holding cells and no where to put an inmate with an infectious disease. The new facility has maximum capacities of 43 for womens and maximum security, 315 for mens, 8 *large* holding cells, and two quarantine negative pressure cells for sick inmates.
The Summerville facility almost triples the capacity. It also provides a safer atmosphere for the guards.
"I've already had the directors that work in the dorms with the inmates, they were already telling me how much nicer it is, how much easier it is to maintain order because they only have to deal with one to two detainees at a time per cell, unlike up here where you may have up to 15 people to deal with at a time," Van Doran said.
The 57-year old facility in St. George did not require a few renovations, it needed to be gutted.
"Replace all the security doors, all the security electronics and redo most, if not all, bathrooms and plumbing in the facilities," Van Doran explained.
The Dorchester County jail in Summerville opened its doors two week ago.