MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - The Department of Justice is investigating after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the Hill Finklea Detention Center. The ACLU's National Prison Project says it filed the motion because of the jail's ban on their "Prison Legal News" and other publications.
Jail policy limits inmates awaiting trial from access to reading material. Officials say they don't need pornography or information about drugs and weapons because it could encourage a riot.
"We simply cannot and will not make our jail a Marriott," Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said.
The Department of Justice is now investigating after the federal court complaint by the ACLU. Berkeley County Detention Center attorney Sandy Senn says staples found in certain publications are costly or dangerous. She says inmates have shoved staples in places to cause plumbing problems, in locks to keep them from locking, and light fixtures causing electrical issues. Additionally she says staples, which inmates will melt or attach to pens, pencils, toothbrushes, or walkmans, can be a health hazard.
"They'll take them and stick them in a pencil eraser, and then make homemade tattoos. That will cause health problems, and we're responsible for their healthcare," Senn said.
Senn says the jail has called publications and attorneys that send documents with staples to please take them out. She says the jail does not have the staff to go through and remove staples especially when publications send multiple copies.
"On that day it's going to take our mail staff a good bit of time to remove these staples. We believe if they want to get their materials into our jail they need to make it compliant," Senn said.
The ACLU says that the defendants, meaning the jail in this case, should be the ones to take out the staples in order to make sure reading material gets to the inmates. The ACLU says on average only three publications are mailed in to inmates in Berkeley County daily and that it would only take a few minutes to remove the staples.
The jail has been court-ordered to go through 40,500 inmate files, noting when inmates have had issues with staples in the past. Sheriff DeWitt says Berkeley County jail is complying with the DOJ investigation and will make policy changes if needed.