Darlington jail not meeting federal standards - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Darlington jail not meeting federal standards

Darlington County Detention Facilities Darlington County Detention Facilities
Darlington County Prison Farm Darlington County Prison Farm

DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Darlington County jail will not get any more inmates from the State Department of Corrections, because it's not meeting state regulation. They do not have enough guards to properly run the jail.

The sheriff’s office has been working towards full compliance for years, but said Darlington County Council has not approved the budget to hire additional employees. County Councilman, Lee Flowers for District 5 said he thinks he has the solution. Flowers believes the prison farm, run by the county should consolidate with the jail. However, council voted 5-3 to not close down the prison farm. That is where low risk state inmates go to work and do maintenance around the county.

Councilman Flowers doesn’t want the county to control the prison farm anymore. He said, “They did a staffing analysis through the state and they said this is how many officers you need and these are the shifts you need to work and this is how you need to handle it, and we do not have those officers.”

The jail does not comply with the PREA act, which stand for Prison Rape Elimination Act. It has to do with rape, theft, and violence happening inside the jail, so there has to be the right number of officers working it. Right now, they need 12 more officers.

Flowers think the solution solves two problems. "It gets us PREA compliant and it takes care of the budget issue of not having the money, because we already have the money in the budget," he said.

The annual budget is 840 thousand dollars to run the prison farm, but Flowers wants that money and the employees to transfer over to the jail. “Our staffing now I think is at 32 or 33 but we only have about 27 employees working. There is a tremendous turnover within the facility.”

So Chief Deputy for Darlington County Sheriff's Office, James Hudson explained as a former jailer why there is so much turnover. “As a former jailer which is where I started, you’re never going to be at full capacity at the jail, you may be for a short period of time, but working in that environment it takes a special kind of person to do that job.”

Hudson said, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The amount of arrests that come in daily from Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar and Society Hill, it can change the dynamic, but the sheriff's office wants to continue to work towards compliance.

Sheriff Wayne Byrd released in a statement:

"The Sheriff's Office will continue to work towards full PREA compliance at the  Detention Center. However, since the Sheriff can not "create" new positions without County Council approval and funding, it is impossible for us to achieve full PREA compliance. County Council's lack of action leaves the Detention Center, the Office of Sheriff, and Darlington County opens to greater liability and creates a questionable working environment for our Detention Officers." 

Hudson added, “We’re on board, the sheriff is on board, the county administrator is on board, we just need to find the common ground to make sure we do the right thing, because ultimately it falls down to a safety issue for the officers that work at the jail and the inmates as well.”

Unless there is a push from the state to adjust staffing, for now everything at the jail will stay as is.

The next chance for more funding to hire additional officers won’t come until next year’s county budget.

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