Live 5 investigates: Tax dollars paying for unused jail wing

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 News investigation has found that two floors of a new wing at the Berkeley County Jail are still not in use by inmates, three years after the wing first opened.

Officials say the jail is still overcrowded even though those two empty floors ready to move in to.

"The current problem why we can't move in to the second floor of this new facility is because of current staffing," said Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne Dewitt.

Dewitt said the sheriff's office doesn't have enough correctional officers to work on those two floors of the new wing.

"According to South Carolina Department of Corrections standards, we have to have additional officers before we can move into the second floor. That basically is the only problem we have now," he explained.

Why did the county make the new addition to the jail so big in the first place?

The sheriff said the county was planning for a population boom and expecting the jail population also to increase.

Dewitt was asked if some may look it the jail expansion being a waste of tax dollars.

"I'm sure some people probably do, in regards to the facility having been built the way it is right now. I think it probably was not a bad idea because our county is going through a population boom right now, and other counties are not," he said.

Dewitt is planning to make an appeal to county council next month to allow him to hire 16 new correctional officers to staff the two unoccupied floors of the jail annex.

What if county council says no?

"We're stuck where we are. We won't be able to move into that second floor," Dewitt said.

Dewitt said the estimated cost for the 16 new correctional officers would be a little more than $1.2 million.

He plans to make an appeal to Berkeley County Council next month. The council is scheduled to vote in June on the budget for fiscal 2013-2014.

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