South Carolina won’t relocate inmates in Hurricane Florence’s path
Despite a mandatory evacuation order in the area, South Carolina will not evacuate its 1,053 prisoners and staff at Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Jasper County as Hurricane Florence makes its way to the Southern East Coast. North Carolina and Virginia are relocating inmates in all evacuation zones.
The National Hurricane Center expects Hurricane Florence to hit this Friday and says the damage will be “life-threatening.”
The South Carolina Department of Corrections’ spokesperson, Dexter Lee, told the State, “Right now, we’re not in the process of moving inmates. In the past, it’s been safer to leave them there.”
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued the evacuation order on Monday. During the press conference, McCaster said, “We know the evacuation order I’m issuing will be inconvenient. But we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.”
While Gov. McCaster later lifted the evacuation order for Jasper County, where Ridgeland inmates were purposely being left behind, it does not seem to be because of new understandings of less alarming potential damages that will be caused by Florence in the area.
“There’s a concern anytime (with flooding) in a storm of this magnitude,” Lee said.
The situation brings back a 2016 incident where a Ridgeland inmate died during Hurricane Matthew.
Although the evacuation order has been lifted for Ridgeland’s county, MacDougall Correctional Institution in Dorchester County is still in the evacuation zone.
But last Wednesday, Gov. McCaster said no MacDougall inmates will be moved either. Lee added that the South Carolina Department of Corrections “believes it’s safer to not transfer inmates to another location.”
However, 266 inmates will be moved from the Palmer Pre-Release Center, a level 1-A prison that houses “non-violent” inmates up to 36 months, even though the Center is not located within the evacuation zone.
Since 1999, South Carolina has never moved prisoners in a SCDC facility in response to hurricanes.