One initiative aims to scour down South Central Regional Jail in a way that helps even those who have never seen the inside of a prison cell.
When Executive Director of the Regional Authority Joe DeLong toured the state's jailhouses, he said South Central in Charleston was the filthiest facility he had seen. He said back in February, graffiti lined the walls and food covered the floors.
That's when he mandated that all inmates must routinely clean up the messes they make. And now inspectors visit South Center at least one a week.
"At one point I wouldn't even walk in the kitchen because I didn't think it was safe to walk on the floor," said DeLong, who mentioned that inspectors have noticed an improvement in the cleanliness. "You're trying not to just change behavior. You're trying to change an entire culture in that facility."
DeLong added that it costs $44 per day, per prisoner, to keep someone in jail. He said if staff, prisoners, and trustees adopt more sanitary conditions, maintenance fees could go down, which means one day, taxpayers could dole out less.
But if conditions continue to worsen, DeLong said taxpayers may need to front the costs of renovating a crumbling facility.
Steve Crook became acting administrator after DeLong visited South Central in February.
He said it doesn't matter how the jail got dirty, just how things will eventually get cleaner. He added it takes two to three weeks to beautify a section. Crook cited overcrowding as an impediment to the jail's goal. In order to scour a section or line of cells, staff must transfer prisoners to different cells.
"As administrators here at the South Center Regional Jail, we have to clean up our act," Crook said. "In turn we have to put that on the inmates and lead by example so they can clean up their act as well."