Sheriff Chuck Wright greets a jailer at the Spartanburg County Detention Center. (File/FOX Carolina)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -
An Upstate jail that was operating in the red has been overhauled by Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright.
The Spartanburg County Detention Center was understaffed and paying millions in overtime only two years ago, but since Wright took office, some things have changed.
Wright took command of the jail in the summer of 2011. He said it was riddled with problems including overworked jailers who put in 20-hour days, leading to too much overtime pay and a high turnover rate.
"It wasn't a little out of control it was like a runaway truck," Wright told FOX Carolina. "The problem is not just the money. If you work 12 hours then eight more, even machines tear up if you run them that much."
He vowed to drop the jail's budget by at least $1 million and fill dozens of vacant positions.
In 2010, almost 125,000 overtime hours were logged, costing $2,896,708. In 2011, there were nearly 136,000 overtime hours, costing $3,102,674. In 2012, it dropped to less than 87,000 hours and cost $1,729,887.
Wright said the decrease comes from the hiring of more jailers to fully staff the detention center and savings from other areas including an onsite clinic staffed to save trips to the hospital, money collected from the canteen, phone usage and money from the housing of federal inmates stays at the jail instead of going into the county's general fund like it used to.
Those savings have allowed Wright to pay for jailer uniforms and weapons, things employees used to have to buy for themselves. He said the changes cut turnover rate among the jailers nearly in half.
In 2010, 45 jailers quit but in 2012, the jail only lost 29.
Wright said there is more to be done, including getting raises for jailers and making the chain gang part of the state's correction system.
"If our prisoners are living better than our soldiers, then we have a problem," Wright said.
Part of the deal for the sheriff to take over the jail included raises for him and his staff, costing taxpayers nearly $150,000. Wright said that money came with a responsibility he took seriously.
"We took it as a sense of trust in us to come over here and do what's right," He said. "We've paid for those pay increases two times over."
When asked if the Spartanburg County Council was pleased with the jail's progress, five members said they were happy with Wright's changes. As of April 26, Chairman Jeff Horton and District One Councilman Michael Brown had not responded.
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