CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Lowcountry’s only facility for detaining children is expected to be replaced.
The Charleston County Juvenile Detention Center, which opened along Headquarters Road in North Charleston more than 50 years ago, is slated to move roughly half a mile away to 3765 Leeds Avenue.
The existing facility houses more than two dozen children from Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties who have been remanded by Family Court or are accused of serious offenses.
In an interview with Live 5 News, Charleston County Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas stated the new center will have a capacity of 72 juveniles and will not have concrete cells with steel doors like the current facility.
"With juveniles, you want a softer environment,” said Lucas. “You want one that they don't feel like they're actually in prison and right now, they do feel like they're in prison."
The new 30,500 square foot Charleston County Juvenile Detention Center will cost more than $16 million and will be funded by the county government’s capital projects budget. The building was described by Chief Deputy Willis Beatty as dormitory-style. It will include outdoor recreation space along with classrooms and libraries for schoolwork and programming.
The property where the new facility is envisioned contains a building that previously served as the Coastal Pre-Release Center. Charleston County recently applied for environmental permits from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) in order to redevelop the premises.
Demolition could begin in the coming weeks.
When asked whether enough public input was included in this development process, Lucas said that the property has long served as a detention facility and that there are no neighborhoods nearby.
“There's not really anything to be concerned about,” said Lucas. “If anything, people should be happy that we're getting out of the facility built in 1966 and moving into modern inmate behavior management."
Live 5 News reached out to all members of the Charleston County Council on Thursday morning to find out their views regarding the project but our requests for comment have not yet been returned.
Officials with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office expect the new detention center to be completed in the summer of 2021. Lucas explained that he thinks that the current facility is safe, but also noted that it needs to be demolished.
“It’ll be torn down, if I have to go over there and tear it down myself,” said Lucas. “Nobody should ever go into that building again.”