Many other counties have expanded or built new facilities to handle additional detainees.
Simple possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a $200 fine.“We’ve got some violent people in our jail, and those are the people we’ve got to keep in our jail,” Lewis said.MONCKS CORNER — As Berkeley County’s population has soared the past several years, one thing that has not kept pace with the burgeoning growth is the county jail.Despite an addition in 2010 that doubled its space, the county has one of the lowest numbers of jail beds per capita in the state, 1.38 per 1,000 residents, according to the county's Sheriff's Office.Some are awaiting transfer to the state Department of Corrections prisons, while others were denied bail because they are accused of dangerous crimes, such as possessing stolen weapons, drug trafficking or murder.“These people are so dangerous you can’t put them back among society,” Cochran said. Even so, “When we opened that third floor, it didn’t relieve the pressure at all,” Lewis said.“So until they go to trial, they sit.”In 2010, a $10 million expansion added two floors at Hill-Finklea and was supposed to double its capacity, but the addition didn't fully open for years because the county lacked the money to hire enough deputies to staff it. So far this year, an average of 19 offenders have been booked into the facility each day, up from 18 per day last year.“One thing I’ve told deputies is, just because the jail is overcrowded, that has no bearing on what you do,” Lewis said.On Monday, Berkeley County Council will consider spending an additional $500,000 to lodge additional detainees there.
Berkeley reimburses Charleston the $55 per day cost of housing an inmate there.“I understand that nobody wants to spend tax dollars on a jail,” Lewis said.
Detention centers are built to hold those awaiting bond or a trial, which is the case for most of the nearly 300 who have been at Hill-Finklea for six months or less.
Overworked prosecutors push cases through the system as quickly as they can, said Chief Deputy Mike Cochran.
Inmates are just like anybody else: Pack them in and tempers are going to flare up quicker."Since March, Berkeley County has housed 25 to 30 offenders 30 miles away at Charleston's jail, in addition to the juveniles that have been taken there since shortly after Lewis took office in 2015.
Charleston's jail is rated to house 1,917 and currently houses about 1,225 daily.
"It's the least appealing thing you can do with your tax dollars."Admissions to the Charleston County jail have dropped 7 percent thanks to a $2.25 million 2016 grant from The Mac Arthur Foundation to address overcrowding via new initiatives, such as allowing officers to take drunk or stoned people to a treatment center instead of jail.