New jail plan has fewer beds, but more capacity – Coastal Observer


New jail plan has fewer beds, but more capacity

The current jail opened in 1993.

Georgetown County has scaled back its plans for a new jail as costs escalated, but at $66 million, it will still be its largest capital project ever. 

The 85,800-square-foot facility will replace the jail that has been beset with construction flaws since it opened in 1993 on a site near the county landfill outside Georgetown. The  new facility will be located across the highway on 59 acres the county bought last year. A coroner’s office and morgue along with a job training facility for inmates will also be included in the project.

“We understand the challenges we have in the current facility that are beyond our control,” County Administrator Angela Christian said. “We certainly don’t want a repeat of what’s been experienced in the past.”

When County Council first began discussions about a new jail in 2019, the cost of the facility was estimated at $36 million. That had increased to $55 million by the time the county was ready to issue bonds last year, but the council tabled the bond issue because the costs had risen even further.

Plans presented to County Council this week show a 256-bed facility, 100 less than proposed in 2019.

“Beds is really not our issue in Georgetown. Our issue is classification,” Sheriff Carter Weaver said adding that the current capacity is 265. “We have reduced the number of beds to make it more cost effective.”

Federal and state regulations specify how inmates can be housed, which means not all the space in a jail is available at one time, said Dan Mace, a vice president at Moseley Architects who is working on the project.

The design for the new jail is based on the type of people who are housed there, most of whom have not been sentenced, but Mace added, “the county never knows who’s coming through the door.”

The core facilities will be sized to service future expansion.

The housing includes a separate wing for women with 51 beds. For men, there is a 48-bed dormitory and three 47-bed units with two inmates to a cell. There are also cells for inmates who have to be kept apart from the others.

“We have determined a very staff-efficient way to design this facility,” Mace said.

How that will impact the sheriff’s office staffing hasn’t been determined, Weaver said.

The council included a 2-mill tax increase in this year’s budget to fund the debt for the facility. The county expects to issue bonds in November and start work in March. The project is due to be completed by the fall of 2026.



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