"They bring stress on the officers," he said, "and the officers, for whatever reason, look for other employment. This adds more hours to remaining officers."
The jail should be staffed with 81 correctional officers. It now has about 66, but that is better than the beginning of the year, when it had just 50, Tucker said.
He said overcrowding creates an environment where a disturbance can become a "flashpoint for violence."
"If you think you're being treated unfairly, as far as your living situation, it can put you on edge on something that otherwise might not create a violent reaction," he said.
Douglas Ganoe, a Charleston resident, said he spent a week last month at South Central for a parole violation. During his stay, he said, he had a cellmate despite being on lockdown and his toilet did not work.
"During inspection, I told the head honcho, the guy walking around, about how our toilet did not work. He wrote about it on a piece of paper and it was never fixed."
Tucker said that, since the jail houses twice the number of inmates it's supposed to, everything wears out twice as fast.
"This jail is almost 18 years old, things are going to wear out," he said. "If your home is 18 years old, that's when things typically start to wear out."
He said his office receives about 170 to 220 complaints a day from inmates about various problems such as plumbing or other water issues. Maintenance crews do the best they can to fix problems because they do not want to shut a cell down, he said.
"I don't think anyone wants jail or prison to be luxurious, I don't think anyone wants that," he said. "It's simply our goal to provide a secure place, which is the first priority, and a humane place. That's what a correctional facility should be."
On a regular day at the jail, six or seven inmates with working privileges prepare meals that will feed all 600 inmates, three times a day.
Those inmates said it's an added strain to proportion out food when overcrowding is at its highest.
Tucker said many West Virginians' knee-jerk reactions to jail overcrowding is to build a new prison. But that would take a long time, he said, and the overcrowding problem needs a solution soon.
"I suspect, if you made the decision today that you're going to build a new prison, it would be five or seven years before you move your first prisoner in there," he said.
He said he favors changing state laws to allow shorter sentences or alternative sentences, such as home confinement, for Division of Corrections prisoners.
"There's no doubt," he said. "To avoid the overcrowding problems here, we need fewer prisoners."
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.