HORRY COUNTY, (WMBF) - The J. Reuben Long Detention Center has too many criminals and not enough room for them.
That is why detention center officials are making an effort to let people who commit minor and some major crimes take a plea deal or go to trial to get a lesser sentence to move out of jail and go to prison.
Right now, there are over 850 inmates in J. Reuben, so now county officials are working to reduce the inmate overpopulation.
A mass arraignment is in the works for inmates who have been locked up for more than six months.
Jimmy Richardson, the Horry County solicitor, said there are too many people sitting in jail hoping they’ll never be moved to prison.
So, to move people more quickly and ease overcrowding, the arraignment is giving them two options - make it easier on themselves by pleading, or make it harder on themselves by not and having someone else decide, which could give them a longer sentence.
For example, if an inmate is in jail for murder charges, they can possibly get out in 30 years if they enter a plea. However, if they don’t and go to trial, it could move to 50 years or life.
Either way it goes, they will be moved out of J. Reuben.
“If you take this plea offer, you go away. It’s easier on us and it’s easier on you if you say, 'I want a trial,' we can give you a trial," Richardson said. "It’s going to be tougher on us, but it’s going to be a lot tougher on you too, so weigh your options. Do you want 30 years? Do you want 12 years? Do you want 10 years? Whatever the plea offer is, it’s usually much less than what you would get at a trial.”
County officials are not expecting to clear out a lot of people in one day, but it will be a step in the right direction to eliminate overcrowding.
Richardson said there will be about 100 people arraigned in December, but the county expects about 25 out of that 100 to plead and the rest to be given trial dates.
According to Richardson, they could set lower bonds to eliminate overcrowding, but he can’t go for that because there are too many people in for serious crimes.
He added there hasn’t been a mass arraignment in years, so that and the increase in population could explain the overcrowding issue.
“If you out 10 percent more police, you’re going to have 10 percent more population," Richardson said. "Chances are there are going to be 10 percent more people doing bad things.”
The arraignment is scheduled for December, and after it's done, trials should not go past June.