Originally created 01/25/02

Officials say jail is run capably



AIKEN - After five days of news reports on overcrowding and allegations from inmates and visitors of ill treatment, officials said Thursday the Aiken County Detention Center is being handled effectively.

The inmate count at the jail Thursday was 256.

One state official who toured the jail Wednesday said jail officials are doing what they can to ease the population, but the reality is that there are just too many people in one place.

"I don't know what the magic number is, but I think they have run sometimes pretty high numbers in the low 200s. If they get it down to the 200s, the low 200s, that is manageable," said Blake Taylor Jr., director of inspections and operational management for the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Mr. Taylor said his department will continue to monitor the jail population.

"From what I know of,we (jail officials) are confident they will do everything that is necessary to not let it reach a crisis stage," he said.

Since Saturday the jail has had to move some inmates to other counties' holding facilities. Jail administrator Maj. Dan Edwins said about 25 inmates have been moved to the Edgefield County jail since Saturday.

Mr. Taylor said jail officials have also been trying to reduce the time inmates wait in jail before they can ask a magistrate to release them on bond.

Mr. Taylor added that finishing the construction of the new county jail on Wire Road is the best way to stop overcrowding in the jail.

Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian said the new facility should be finished soon.

"We're still targeting early March, but it's going to be a stretch," he said. "It can't be too soon."

Overcrowding reached its peak Saturday, when the jail count numbered more than 300 inmates.

That day, a tour - part of a juvenile arbitration program - finished with allegations from a teen who said she was groped by inmates.

When the intake rate is high, inmates can be crowded three to a cell, jail officials have said.

A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that the state agency will open an investigation about "allegations of impropriety" at the jail.

Kathryn Richardson said it would be inappropriate for her to discuss the details of the allegations.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

State corrections officials will continue to monitor the Aiken County Detention Center as another agency begins an investigation into a visitor's allegations against inmates.