HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Sheriff's Office is now reaping the benefits of a program put in place in July, and the hard-worked hours of dozens of employees are paying off.
"When you're booking 100 to 120 people a weekend and more throughout the week, and they come in and they don't get through the system, it's easy. It doesn't take much over a period of time for the numbers to back up," Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said.
Thompson said staffing issues stemming from being overworked and overstressed, and not having enough time off, in addition to prison overcrowding, initiated a collaboration to expedite inmates through the justice system. It began in July of this year.
Thompson said the HCSO was staffed to handle 650 inmates, but at times had over 900 prisoners in J. Reuben Long Detention Center.
According to Thompson, all justice system players - from circuit court judges to public defenders and solicitors - agreed to improve the detention center's state. With that, a lot of overtime has been accrued, Thompson said, but it's been worth it.
As of Thursday morning, 691 inmates were in the detention center. Thompson said that's the lowest count since July.
The average daily population from July through last month was 822. Thompson showed 5,401 inmates have been booked during that same time frame, with 5,380 being released.
The program initiated in July focuses on getting charged inmates through court and to their correct destination. Approximately 414 cases have been cleared, with 225 inmates transported to the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Thompson said those cases include ones heard at the detention center only, excluding the justice center.
Thompson explained why it's taken months to see the program working.
"To do it the right way. That's probably why it took a while for it to really take effect, because we were really going to do it the right way," he said. "We weren't opening the doors and flood gates letting people out, and everybody has a rightful bond. Everybody has a rightful hearing, and that's what we've done."
Thompson said momentum has come back to the staff. Five officers graduate training next week, with five openings looking to be filled by late January.
In addition to inmates being transferred and released out of J. Reuben Long, Thompson said a little under 8,000 warrants have been recalled to be re-evaluated.
Those warrants are going back to the magistrate's office to ensure they are done properly, and will be reissued if done right, he added.