Overcrowding a Problem at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center
BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (BRODIE HART, WTAT-TV) — Open doors are a luxury when you live in a jail cell. Also a luxury in the Hill-Finklea Detention Center is a little breathing room.
Berkeley County’s detention center is just too full and we found out inmates are actually crammed into every nook and cranny, even after an expansion that happened just two years ago.
So, we did some digging to find out how it could put officers in dangers and ultimately cost even more money.
“At times the overcrowding does play a big factor as far as in more inmates versus the officers,” said Lt. Nakeisha Tippins, a detention deputy at the Berkeley County Detention Center.
Overcrowding might be an understatement. There are now 460 inmates inside the jail meant to house only 291.
Lt. Tippins says the 18 corrections officers on each shift are stretched thin.
“Very rarely will there be a 40-hour week,” she said. “We can run up to 130, 140 hours bi-weekly.”
So why, less than two years after an expansion, is the jail almost 190 inmates over capacity?
“You have to look at in in a whole, the growth of Berkeley County,” said Sheriff Duane Lewis.
Lewis says more people moving to the area inevitably leads to more crime.
“We see the amount of people that are moving here. Homes are being built. We’re just trying to keep up,” Lewis said. “The calls for service and the situations that are happening in the county sometime require people to be incarcerated.”
With so many incarcerated sleeping in cots inches off the floor, Sheriff Lewis is worried about safety with too few officers working too many hours.
“We had 12 situations dealing with inmate assaults, fights, and two assaults on our detention officers,” Lewis said of the last year.
The Berkeley County Council recently approved $500,000 to pay for 40 inmates to be housed in the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County. It costs $55 per inmate per day.
“It helps,” said Randy Demory, director of the HIll-Finklea Detention Center. “When you’re as overcrowded as we are, if I can find a way to send five inmates somewhere, I’ll take advantage of it.”
“It actually works out a little cheaper for us to send them to Charleston County than it is for us to house them, feed them, and take care of those issues,” Sheriff Lewis added.
Charleston County has the most beds available per 10,000 residents of any jail in the state. Berkeley County is not even close. they have about a third as many, according to Sheriff Lewis.
“It’s not up to me to decide if we’re going to build a new jail,” Lewis said. “I’m not saying we need to. I’m just saying now’s the time to have the discussion.”
Lt. Tippins has some ideas to help with safety and workflow.
“At least two more bodies per shift without overtime. That would definitely be helpful.”
Helpful to keep people safe and secure, both inside the cells and out.
“Officer safety is number one,” said Tippins. “If we can alleviate some of that, a lot of the officers that were part of the turnover rate wouldn’t have to worry ‘Golly, am I going home safe today?’”
Sheriff Lewis says he’s considering expanding the jail once again. He is also considering asking the county for additional funds in the 2018 budget to house even more inmates in the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County.
The jail’s annual budget is $8 million and is not planning to hire additional corrections officers because the county has given them what they call a generous overtime budget.