A new screening policy at Horry County jail is centered around public safety

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A new screening policy is taking a closer look at who's entering the J. Reuben Detention Center in Horry County. Authorities are teaming up with the federal government to detect individuals born out of the states that are in jail to flag them for possible deportation.

The federal partnership is between the Horry County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The homeland security program that's being rolled out is called 287 (g).

Chief Deputy Tom Fox with the Horry County Sheriff's Office said the purpose of this policy is to provide a force multiplier for Immigration Customs Enforcement agents. He said they will have four members who will be trained to identify suspects who were not born in the U.S. as they come into the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Fox said one officer has already graduated, and the plan is to send three more through the four week training program.

Fox said this screening will only apply to inmates in jail who are born outside of the United States.

Staff members at J. Reuben Long Detention Center will be trained on how to identify those inmates. Those four officers will then use gathered evidence, interviews or real-time fingerprint scans as part of the program.

Fox said if an individual is born outside of the country, those officers will then have to determine if that inmate is here legally or illegally. If the person here is not legally documented, ICE agents will then be notified so they can determine whether to detain or deploy the individual in 48 hours.

"The basic goal of the program is to make our community safer. If the people weren't here in the first place, they would have never committed the crimes, and we'd never have the victims of the crimes that are suffering from this. So, our goal… as all the goals in the communities that have it, is just trying to promote public safety," said Fox.

Horry County will be the 4th county in South Carolina to join this program. According to ICE, Horry County will join 75 other law enforcement agencies in 20 other states in this initiative.

Fox said he doesn't think the department will face any challenges with this new screening policy.

"No - we're the 4th county in South Carolina that's coming on board - York County, Charleston County, Lexington County and ourselves will be the 4th county that operates the program in the jails, and we visited those counties. We went to Mecklenburg County in North Carolina that has it and visited them - and it seems to be a pretty fluent program. It's little disturbance in the jail, it's just a tool that we use to keep our community safer," said Fox.

Chief Deputy Fox said the county first applied for the program about a decade ago, however it was placed on hold due to changes in administration; a memorandum agreement was signed in 2016.

The Horry County Sheriff's Office plans to start the program as early as this June after all four officers complete training.

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