Over the past several years issues at the Kershaw County Detention Center have remained a well guarded secret within the County. Former and Current Inmates have complained over the running of this facility, which was build in 1999. It was designed to house no more than 89 inmates at that time, current inmate numbers reach close to 150. Complaints range from food quality (which resulted in attempted law suits), treatment of inmates, medical neglect and much more.
Recently the former Director of the Facility Tyrell Cato was fired for sexual harassment of a co-worker. Issues at the Kershaw County Detention Center have become dire at best for inmates and staff. The facility suffers from understaffing and has maintained a high turnover rate for several years.
Since the onset of Covid-19 inmates receive two prepared meals a day and a bagged dinner consisting of 2 slices of turkey bologna, 4 slices of bread, 2 cookies and some chips. Breakfast alternates between Yellow Grits and Oatmeal, along with alternations of turkey sausage, egg patty, and bread. Lunch varies from day to day, but is considered by inmates to be the least desired as to no seasoning, and lack of nutritional (and flavor) aspects. As reported in an article last year the food is substituted by inmates with their canteen orders of ramen soups and other items. Many have stated its how they survive.
The facility suffers from major plumbing issues that have toilets overflowing and constantly clogging. The water in the facility is supplied by an on demand heater instead of a traditional water heater. This causes the water supplied to inmates to be so hard inmates receive drinking water in coolers.
Medical issues at the facility are handled by the regular on duty nurse. Some inmates have complained of being overdosed with their medicine which in some cases could lead to more severe issues and death. Inmates only receive medical treatment after filling out a medical form and paying $5.00 (per visit) for a general check up. If an outside dentist is needed for inmates they are told that its a 3 month wait period. We were informed that the on duty nurse was testing inmates for Covid-19 while having it herself and still treating inmates.
The Detention Center has earned the name “The Kershaw County Day Care”, by past and current inmates and employees as inmates are treated as children including a “quite time” from 1PM to 3PM, where inmates must remain in their bunks.
In 2013 Kahn Development submitted a proposal to upgrade several county buildings including the Detention Center. It’s overall assessment was as follows:
“This 14 year old facility is in poor condition and requires major renovations and upgrades. Originally built to house
approximately 90 inmates the average population exceeds capacity by more than 50%. Interior finishes are in poor
condition. Approximately half of the HVAC equipment is nearing its useful service life. Facility requires a major
expansion and major upgrades to the existing building.”
Since this report Kershaw County has done patch work throughout the facility but has virtually left the major concerns untouched.
The Detention Center is owned and operated by the Kershaw County Council itself, which means they hold the responsibility of its upkeep and operations. Employees who oversee the inmates work directly for the county making them county employees and do not work for the Department of Corrections or the Sheriff’s Department as most others Detention Facilities. This also makes the County Council responsible for the inmates housed at the facility.
Currently inmates are housed in a mixture of charges. You have child molesters (who are normally housed isolated) mixed in with general inmates, and family court inmates (who usually only spend 45 days) housed with murder suspects or any of the mixture. Inmates are asking for a change. What does this mean? They are simply asking for a clear direction of staffing and better food. In short they are asking to be treated as human beings. They are not asking for steak dinners, or 5 star hotel treatment. Many inmates state that if they ask for an extra blanket due to the cold temperature maintained in the facility one will give it and the next shift will take it away.
In a phone conversation with Kershaw County Councilman Jimmy Jones, he stated he had concerns about the facility for many years now, but has had to fight other members of the council to get anything done. He was unaware of the current mixing of inmates (not keeping inmates separate based on charges). Councilman Jones was truly concerned about the inmate’s care and the facilities downward spiral.
One other aspect of the facility is its alleged policy of disposing of personal property as inmates are processed in. We were informed that items such as pocket knifes and lighters and cigarettes were simply thrown away. It use to be the general practice of the facility that these sort of items would be picked up by a relative or friend with a property release form or given to the Sheriff’s Department for later pickup once the inmate was released. This practice of simply disposing of private personal property (which includes sentimental valued items) could raise legal questions for the facility. In searching through the facilities rules and practices we were unable to find any written policy giving permission for disposal of personal property of such items.