Berkeley County sheriff asks for more jail funding

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) -- Going behind the secured doors of Hill-Finklea Detention Center's old wing shows the cramped quarters of its 163 inmates. Jail officials say one room was designed for 24 people.

Today it holds 80.

Capt. Kevin Novak monitors the conditions of his guests and the officers who guard them. He says they have the space to relieve the overcrowding, but there's a problem.

"We don't have the staffing to staff this part of the jail," explained Novak as he stood in a huge empty room.

As the jail director, Novak shows the new, unused second floor of the detention center. It opened four years ago.

"They don't have enough people to go into the housing units. Not enough people to transport prisoners. They don't have enough people to do cell searches like they should be doing and things like that," said Novak.

He and the sheriff's office are focusing on funding to help the staff.

"Our officers are working mandatory overtime. They're working twelve-and-a-half hour shifts.{} They never get a day off. It's really been difficult for them to keep up the pace," said Novak.

That's why he and Sheriff Wayne DeWitt stood before Berkeley County's Justice and Public Safety Committee on Monday night. They asked for $773,000 to hire more officers.

"If you were to approve these 16 positions in the next fiscal budget, what you're actually doing is just putting four more per shift," said DeWitt in front of Berkeley County Council members and County Administrator Dan Davis.

County Council members expressed their support to the sheriff for what's being done at the Detention Center.{}

They'll make a decision on the funding request before the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.