PICKENS — The housing of detainees for the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department is difficult enough, but when a lack of funding in the mental health system of the state makes matters worse, there are few options available.
In a 1970’s facility rated for 93 beds, equating to 93 inmates, the Pickens County Detention Center is faced with an overcrowding issue that goes beyond just housing inmates and extends to housing those awaiting beds at state mental facilities. As of March 4, there were 210 inmates being held by the Sheriff’s Department locally, more than double the capacity.
For some, the wait is indefinite.
“One of our inmates has waited for 568 days for a bed, and although he is finally in Columbia, that’s a year and a half when you do the math,” Jail Administrator Captain Keith Galloway explained. “We have another that’s waited 544 days. These are not just people waiting for evaluations, these are people who need medical help, and we can’t give that to them here.”
This issue isn’t isolated to just Pickens County.
“There was a survey released by the state Sheriff’s Association about what other sheriffs are doing around the state,” Sheriff Rick Clark said. “This is a problem across South Carolina, not only in Pickens County.”
As funding cuts for mental health care and facilities have become more and more frequent, the issue of housing detainees is becoming more difficult and actually extends beyond beds.
“We’re making an average of 50 or more probate pickups per month to have them locally evaluated,” Galloway said. “That puts in perspective the problem with mental health issues in the county, and these are pickups outside our local city limits, with the city police departments handling the others.”
Due to the limited space and resources of the detention center, detainees are housed as best as the staff and administration can accommodate, but in some cases, inmates are found incompetent to stand trial and still remain in the detention center.
“That’s the kicker, they may be found incompetent to stand trial and the judicial system sends them right back here,” Galloway said. “The judicial system may not release them back to the public and even though they are incompetent to go to trial, they still have to wait here for a bed at a state mental health facility.”
Galloway shared an example.
“We have one here now that’s been released by the Department of Corrections and sent back to the county to be released,” Galloway said. “But, to be in compliance with his sentence, he has to have a 90-day psychological evaluation completed and now has to wait in the detention center for a bed in order to have it done. This is uncredited time, his sentence is complete, and there’s no telling how long he will have to wait.”
For Clark, there is one way to begin to fix this issue.
“We have to go back to pre-2007 funding levels, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “That would help with the overcrowding around the state.”
For Clark and his staff, it’s about more than bed space and a lower inmate count.
“We truly do care, I don’t think many people know that, but we do,” Galloway said. “There are far too many people we have to deal with in this job that if they had the right help, we would never see them again. We really do care and want to help get them the help they need.”