Study on Chester Co. Detention Center Reveals Major Structural, Mechanical Problems

CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – The Chester Country Detention Center is one of the oldest in the state, according to Sheriff Max Dorsey.

The original jail was built in 1970 and an addition was added in 2009.

Chester County Leaders believe that addition was designed poorly, now the building is shifting, causing major problems and possible safety concerns for Dorsey’s officers and inmates, he says.

With so many issues, Sheriff Dorsey asked county council to let an engineering firm conduct a study of the center.

On Thursday the firm revealed those results to county council saying it could cost $3,730,207 to fix the problems which include structural, mechanical, plumbing and other problems.

“We have dangerous, accused criminals that we are responsible for, we are responsible for their safety and humane housing, just as important are the employees here to be safe”, says Sheriff Dorsey.

Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey making his point very clear as he let our cameras tour the county’s detention center, saying something has to change.

“That pipe as it goes in the ground, its disintegrated”, says Dorsey.

Sheriff Dorsey says the center has mechanical and plumbing problems as well as major structural issues, like a cracked slab and walls.

“There are daily attempts to smuggle in weapons, cell phones or drugs and so when you have cracks in concrete and walls, those are just exposing areas to allow those things to be hidden”, says Dorsey.

The structural issues also causing four cell doors to stick.

“If there’s a fire or emergency you wouldn’t be able to extract that person quickly. So its an immediate safety issue. Obviously we don’t have anyone in a cell where we can’t get them out right now but that’s’ something we have to test everyday”, says Dorsey.

With poor drainage and leaks, Sheriff Dorsey says officers are having to make due while trying to run a detention center.

“When we hire somebody to be a detention officer we don’t ask them to be a plumber, an electrician and a construction engineer. We ask them to be a detention officer and take care of the inmates”, says Dorsey.

On Thursday the firm hired to conduct a study, Moseley Architects revealed to Chester County council it could cost more than 3 million dollars to fix the issues.

They also told council that may not be a permeant fix. According to the study “to address settlement issues the existing foundations would need added support, but this may only solve the problem temporarily.”

The study goes on to say, “structurally the housing addition at rear of the complex appears to be shifting towards the hill creating cracks in the wall and slab, as well as creating issues with the safety and operation of the cells.”

Dorsey adding he knows the number is steep, but improvements have to be made to maintain safety in his county. He says he hopes residents will take those who serve into consideration when they see the amount of money it could cost.

“I think we need to do a serious cost-benefit analysis on a new facility. I know that has a heavy price tag but are we going to maybe put as much as 25 percent of the cost of a new facility in putting a band aid on an old facility. Is that a proper way to spend tax payer money”, says Dorsey.

No decision was made or voted on during the workshop with county council but members do plan to discuss this more in executive session at their next meeting.

Sheriff Dorsey adding the Chester County council has been very supportive, members even took a tour of the detention center to see the problems.

Sheriff Dorsey goes on to say how appreciative he is of his officers and deputies who work hard each day.

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