YORK COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - In York County, concerns of overcrowding in jail have lingered for the last 18 years. Now, Sheriff Kevin Tolson says it’s time to get ahead of the issues before it’s too late.
Population of inmates booked into jail each day has dramatically gone up. In 2016 the average daily population was 358.8 county inmates. So far in 2019, the average daily population is 462.5 county inmates.
“We need additional space,” said Sheriff Kevin Tolson. “It’s not as easy as being issued a key to a room.”
Housing additional inmates is a moving puzzle.
“540 beds sound like a lot, but I have to separate 16 and under, from the 17 year olds, separate from 18 and over,” said Sheriff Tolson.
Inmates are also separated based on violent tendencies and by gender. Female arrests have gone up dramatically, and most of their charges are drug related.
The Sheriff also says he runs the largest mental health facility in the county.
“There is a tremendous number of mental health issues in the county and nationwide and they are ending up in our jails. We actually house inmates who are here on probate orders that are civil in nature, not criminal. So they have not committed a crime. And then we have folks in here who are sentenced to treatment facilities but the bed space is not available. So I house them until bed space becomes available.”
In January 2018, ICE stopped bringing inmates through the York County Jail. Previously, the Sheriff's Office received revenue per diem to house inmates for 3-4 days on average, as ICE transported inmates to different facilites.
Right now inmates are housed in single cells but if trends continue they may be forced to double up. That could create security issues and stress on staff.
“I have a tremendous detention officers. I commend them any chance I get,” said Sheriff Tolson. “At any given time they could be spit on or assaulted.”
So what’s the solution? The Sheriff wants to build a new detention center in the eastern part of the county. The Sheriff’s Office is writing a proposal for York County Council and they plan to submit the proposal in the next two months.
“Now is the time and I think council has got a friendly ear and I think they believe that.”