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Richland County hires new director for troubled jail: 'Right man for the job'

Tyrell Cato

Tyrell Cato. South Carolina Jail Administrators' Association/Provided

COLUMBIA — Richland County has hired a new director for the troubled Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

Tyrell Cato took over operations of the jail that has been understaffed and faced several lawsuits alleging mistreatment in the past year.

"I believe he will assist us in taking the Alvin Glenn Detention Center from the bottom team to the top team," County Administrator Leonardo Brown told County Council at its July 19 meeting. 

Cato worked for the Kershaw County Jail for 10 years, including the past three as director, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before that, he was a corporal for the Camden Police Department and a state correctional officer at Lee Correctional Institution.

Cato will make $145,000 a year and started July 2, county spokesman Todd Money said in an email July 21.

Former long-time Alvin S. Glenn Director Ronaldo Myers left in September after emails showed he was on unapproved leave when a riot broke out among inmates. He said in a memo at the time that he had previously planned to retire. 

Shane Kitchen, Myers' deputy, served as interim director until April. Capt. Washava Moye succeeded him as acting director. 

The jail has faced a series of issues in the past year. In the September riot, two officers were injured and a dozen inmates charged. An inspection conducted the same month found the jail understaffed and over capacity. 

An inmate, Lason Butler, died in February after jail staff failed to provide him proper food and liquids, the county coroner said in April. In a news conference following Butler's death, attorneys said many people in the jail are in their cells around-the-clock and put in solitary confinement for no reason. 

A federal lawsuit filed in April alleges detainees with mental illnesses are subject to brutal conditions, such as misuse of restraint chairs, shower stalls used as cells and unsupervised solitary confinement. 

The special section of the jail for people with mental illnesses is also filled with mold, pests and standing water, attorneys said at the time. 

Richland County has attempted to fix some of the problems. After the riots, it upped its security measures, using COVID-19 money to buy body cameras, body scanners, a secured parking area for employees and new security cameras. 

Last July, it froze 50 unfilled positions and raised minimum salaries from $32,210 to $36,500 in an attempt to boost hiring. The county has since raised starting salaries to $40,000.

"It's no secret that the challenges at the jail are fairly monumental," Council Chairman Overture Walker said at the July 19 meeting, "but certainly we trust Mr. Brown's judgement (and) believe he got the right man for the job."

Cato echoed Brown in saying he hopes to remedy some of these issues at the detention center. He has two master's degrees from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. One is in human service counseling and executive leadership, and the other is in criminal justice. 

"The way we're going to get there is teamwork; innovate, outside-of-the-box thinking; and actually just working with the community, the people we see here today, actually getting them involved," Cato said, "taking our detention center and making it something we can all be proud of."

Reach Skylar Laird at (843) 830-1526. Follow her on Twitter @sky_latte_.

Skylar Laird covers Columbia and Richland County for The Post and Courier. She is originally from Missouri.

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