On today’s front page, we report on Sheriff Lee Boan’s request to have his office take over operations of the Kershaw County Detention Center (KCDC), which most people simply refer to as the county jail.
In a letter sent Monday to Kershaw County Council, Boan asks council to consider the move based on state statute and the fact that approximatley 80 percent of sheriffs in South Carolina control their county jails. He also makes the case that now is the right time to consider such a move since current KCDC Administrator Peggy Spivey is retiring at the end of the month, which happens to coincide with the end of the fiscal year.
Boan also offers the ideas that moving the county jail under his office’s control will be more effective and efficient, save taxpayer dollars, eliminate duplication and result in “better coordinated interaction between involved personnel.”
Those all seem like sound suppositions.
In our story, we point out that this is not the first time a Kershaw County sheriff has asked that the jail be turned over to their office. The late Hector Sheriff DeBruhl “devolved,” or gave up, his power over the jail in or sometime before 1987. Ten years ago, in 2009, former sheriff Steve McCaskill sought to regain his office’s control of the jail.
Council ended up rejecting McCaskill’s request in part because of a S.C. Attorney General Office’s opinion that DeBruhl’s giving up of those powers constituted a binding transaction. McCaskill would either have to ask council to mutually come to an agreement with him to devolve their control back to him -- something they chose not to do -- or go to court seeking a declaratory judgment. It does not appear a ruling was ever made.
At the time, we offered opinion on the conflict -- that it was a bit of a mess -- but not on the merits of McCaskill’s request itself.
One of the biggest differences between then and now is that after initially asking then County Administrator Clay Young if the county would be willing to transfer jail powers to him, McCaskill sent a second letter simply stating he planned to take the jail over on April 20 of that year. He sent the letter in mid-March, barely giving council time to consider the matter.
We also offered the opinion that it was curious that McCaskill was making the request late in what turned out to be his last term in office.
That brings us back to Boan’s request. First, he has placed no deadline on his taking over the jail. In fact, he is not even going to make a detailed presentation about his request until July 9, eight days after the beginning of the new fiscal year. In his letter to council, Boan speaks of “mutual cooperation,” a “seamless transition,” and the “common goal of providing improved safety, security and prosperity to Kershaw County.”
And, in an email to the C-I on Thursday morning, Boan stressed that this is not a “fight” between him and council, but a discussion and an effort to jointly research the idea to do what’s right for the county.
Boan’s message, therefore, seems to us to be, “I’d like control of the jail. I think it’s a good idea. Let’s take the time to talk about it. There’s no rush.”
We will also point out that Boan -- who is at the beginning of his first term, not near the end of his last -- is communicating with a different iteration of council than McCaskill did 10 years ago. The only two members still on council from then are Jimmy Jones and Sammie Tucker Jr. It’s possible council will be more amenable to divesting itself of jail oversight and allowing Boan and his office to run that operation.
Finally, do we think it’s a good idea? This early in the game, it’s hard to be 100 percent sure, but, yes, we think it could be a very good idea. We have been very impressed with Boan’s early months as sheriff. There are those who will argue having the agency that locks people up be the jailers, and others who will argue about one elected official having so much control of the county’s budget.
However, we agree that the jail could be run more efficiently and with cost savings to taxpayers. We look forward to seeing exactly how Boan believes those cost-savings can be achieved, but it makes sense to us at first blush.
Once we get those details, we will all -- council, the public and we here at the newspaper -- have a better sense of whether this is the right move or not.
Until then, we cautiously offer our opinion that this is likely going to be a good change for Kershaw County, its citizens and, perhaps, even for those being detained at the Kershaw County Detention Center.