Missing the old jail? Not a chance

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It may be a new state-of-the-art correctional facility, but don’t assume the living is easy for those held within its walls.

“Every morning they have to clean if they want to have breakfast. They scrub down and bleach down the showers to earn any privileges they enjoy. It’s definitely no holiday,” said Capt. Al McKee, administrator for the Butler County Correctional Facility.

McKee and his assistant, Lt. Sharon Smith, shared details of the day-to-day operations of the facility with members of the Greenville Lions Club Monday.

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And please don’t call it a “jail.”

“A ‘correctional facility’ is what we would like it to be. Maybe, by some means, we can correct whatever reason they are in there for,” McKee said.

The 13,000-square-foot structure has 96 beds, including 12 female beds, and currently hold 56 inmates.

MTI, a Greenville-based company, supplies the state-of-the-art security system with 28 cameras assisting 12 subordinate officers in monitoring activities around the clock.

McKee said the new video visitation system in place has cut down passing of contraband “by 99 percent.”

In the facility’s all-stainless steel kitchen, vegetables grown in an on-site garden provide good eating for the prisoners, the administrator said.

“Right now, we’ve got turnips and collards coming out of there,” McKee said.

Inmates participate in a work release program and are now once again being used on trash detail in the county.

“If you need your road cleaned up or you have a problem with stray animals that need to be caught, contact us,” said McKee.

The new facility’s professional medical staff offers a full-time nurse and a physician making weekly visits who is also on call.

“We have a portable X-ray machine on site that has kept us from having to take some of the inmates to the hospital and that has really helped with expenses,” McKee said.

Inmates also have access to a multi-denominational faith ministry as well as mentoring programs.

“We are hoping to get back some of our lost children and adults through programs like these,” McKee said.

While inmates are treated humanely, they are not coddled during their incarceration, he said.

“As we said, they have to work if they want to watch TV (seven channels which are closely monitored), use the phone, the library or have that occasional cigarette in the yard.”

McKee wants to remind the public everyone in jail “is not a bad person.”

“You have violations, misdemeanors and felonies. And most people are in there for violations,” he said.

Because of the overcrowding in the state prison system, a proposal is on the table to house as many as 26 inmates – 20 men and 6 women – at the Butler County facility.

“The incentive for the revenue it would bring us is great,” McKee said.

With an overpopulated prison system and lives ruined by crime, Smith made a plea for citizens “to take back our communities.”

“There is a difference between a paddling and real child abuse. Parents need to be in charge. Sit down and talk with your kids and really listen to them. And know who their friends are,” Smith said. “My son says I burn up his cell phone checking on him, and I am gonna keep on doing it.”