PICKENS COUNTY — Years of planning finally came to fruition on Friday with the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pickens County Jail.
“I’ve been harping on this for four years,” said Sheriff Rick Clark. “If you want to know what a hard job is, go in there with my officers who work in detention. Uniform patrol (is a) hard job too but being in that detention — that’s where I started off — day in and day out under those conditions, in the facilities that we have, we owe them a great debtitude (sic) for what they’ve done for us.”
Clark stated the new facility will cover 83,400 square feet and will host 316 beds with a core of 400. As a comparison, he said the jail is currently holding around 220 prisoners.
The jail is designed to hold 91.
But the new jail won’t be just for locking people away. Clark has big plans for the facility.
“It gives us the abilities to expand our programs. We started our (mental health) grant back in July and in July we had eight people on suicide watch just in the jail,” he said. “Through counseling through behavioral health, their addictions and mental health, at the end of the year — back in January — we had zero on suicide watch. That one stat stood out to me so much on what we can do.”
Clark said with the space the new jail will provide, things were only going to improve more.
“We’re looking at GEDs,” he said. “We’re looking at moving forward. We’re looking at having our counselors come in, our faith based educators come in … The money we’re investing as taxpayers, we’re going to reclaim in people’s lives — where they’re productive and not in jail and not criminals.”
Clark thanked a laundry list of supporters to the project but singled out the previous council in particular for believing in the project and earmarking the funds, effectively kick starting the entire operation.
Construction for the new $23 million jail facility is set to begin this Summer.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.