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Berkeley County Jail over capacity, taxpayers may have to foot the bill to fix it

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

The Berkeley County sheriff is turning to County Council to seek a solution to serious overcrowding at the jail.

The jail is almost 200 inmates over capacity. The jail is designed to hold 291 inmates.

On Monday, there were 438 inmates being held there.

"It's been overcrowded since I took office," sheriff Duane Lewis said. "The plain fact of the matter is we're arresting more criminals and putting them in jail."

Lewis says the jail reached a record capacity on Aug. 22 of 474 inmates.

He says that forced him to send 25 inmates to the Charleston County jail.

"It's one of those things that we have to do," Lewis said.

The man in charge of the jail says the overcrowding is also creating a safety issue for inmates and correctional officers.

"We had a number of incidents including three over the past weekend I think could be directly laid at the feet of overcrowding housing units," jail administrator Randy Demory said.

Lewis says there are several possible solutions to solve the overcrowding at the jail.

He says one may be to move even more inmates to other jails in the Tri-County area.

He says other possibilities are to add on to the current jail or build a new jail. In either case taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

Lewis says any decision to use tax dollars would be up to county council.

"Well that's what happens. They have to make those decisions. I have to provide them with the information. It's their job to come up with a solution," Lewis said.

The jail administrator was scheduled to give a presentation to a county council committee in executive session Monday afternoon.

The sheriff says this is just the first step. 

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