On Jan. 14, Charles Bradford Deese escaped from the Lexington County Detention Center and was loose in the community for five hours before being recaptured. The incident prompted The Chronicle to ask numerous questions, in writing, of Sheriff Jay Koon about the overall security of the facility and monitoring policies that were in place at the time.“Sheriff Koon has worked alongside other county leaders to explore the decommissioning and repurposing of the oldest structural parts of the detention center, the construction of new common areas (i.e. booking, release, medical) and the addition of more housing space,” Lexington County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Capt. Adam Myrick writes in response to questions about the current facility’s adequacy. “His efforts will continue as part of his commitment to Lexington County residents to properly care for inmates and, at the same time, protect the community from inmates should the need arise.”The Chronicle acquired reports documenting the escape through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Deese, who was being held at the detention center on charges including forgery, failure to stop for blue lights, domestic violence and distribution of meth, escaped the jail from a work detail when taking out the facility’s trash along with other inmate workers, then hiding behind a dumpster and, after the other inmates returned inside, climbing a fence to make his escape. His escape and method were discovered after an investigator received a tip about Deese’s possible escape attempt. The information he received pointed the investigator to review the appropriate footage and determine that Deese had indeed exited the facility.Asked if security footage is monitored in real time, Myrick writes, ”In the interest of detention center security, this information must remain confidential.”Deese was working in the facility’s kitchen when he escaped. In response to questions about how inmates are selected for jobs, Myrick writes that inmates can be selected to work in the kitchen or laundry:“Sentenced inmates receive $1 for every day worked. Inmate workers are under direct supervision at all times. They have access to the necessary implements to carry out assignments while under direct supervision and following strict policies.” Asked if inmates are classified based on the perceived danger they might pose to other inmates or staff, Myrick writes, ”Inmates are housed according to a classification system meeting legal standards and are ‘treated’ according to their classification”Myrick indicated that vetted clergy from the community provide for the religious needs of the inmate population. Wellpath, the state Department of Mental Health and the substance abuse ministry LRADAC provide mental health services to the inmates.According to information shared by Myrick, In 2021, 8,141 bookings were recorded at the detention center, up from 8,004 in 2020, but down from the three years prior to 2020. The total bookings include inmates from other jurisdictions not in the county, which varies daily, but averages less than 60 per day, Myrick reported. According to the department’s 2020 Annual Report, the jail had 467 inmates per day in the detention facility on average. “Optimal maximum occupancy is 420 (allows for inmate movement and behavioral management programs),” the report states. Total capacity is 599, according to the report.The report states that new bookings into the jail in 2020 averaged about 16 per day, with about the same number being released each day.In 2020, 67% of inmates booked were residents of Lexington County and 22% were from neighboring counties. The Annual Report states that federal detainees are also housed in the detention center and that revenue generated from providing temporary housing for pre-trial federal inmates subsidizes the facility’s operational costs.The jail served 574,088 meals to the inmate population in 2021 at a cost of $1.772 per meal. That’s $5.316 per day for inmates in the detention center for all three meals. According to Myrick, lights are turned on at 6 a.m. and turned off no later than midnight each day. Inmates are allowed a minimum of one hour of recreation a day, but are otherwise restricted to their cells.Asked about the ratio of inmates serving sentences compared to those waiting trial, Myrick writes.“This varies hourly due to inmates being constantly booked and released. Generally speaking, 95% are pre-detainees and 5% are sentenced (either serving time at LCDC or awaiting transfer to SCDC).”Myrick also responded to an inquiry about those staffing the jail, writing, “The workforce for the Lexington County Detention Center consists of LCSD sworn detention deputies and civilian staff, as well as, contract civilians. LCSD staff work 12 hour shifts.” The 2020 Annual Report states that there is one correctional officer on duty per 70 to 100 inmates. Mental health watch and maximum security requires two correctional officers for the same number of inmates.In 2020, there were 105 inmate-on-inmate assaults and 21 inmate assaults on officers, the report states.The jail facilities have evolved over time. “What we internally refer to as ‘the old jail’ was opened in 1975, an annex and dorms were opened 1989, and what constitutes the main jail of the detention center complex was opened in 1999,” Myrick writes. “The Lexington County Detention Center consists of 14 housing units, booking and release, kitchen, laundry, medical clinic, visitation.” The “old jail,” built in 1975 has a rated capacity of 102 and stands as a three-story hardened structure attached to the main building of the sheriff’s department headquarters. An annex was completed in 1991 with a rated capacity of 176. It is designed to house inmates with minor charges or a lower risk of escape. A third structure with multiple housing pods was completed in 1991. Women and men are detained in separate units, the 2020 Annual Report states.
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