It’s Your Money: Horry County inmate population down but more resources may be needed

Updated: Jan. 7, 2020 at 6:35 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The number of inmates at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County has decreased in recent years, but the sheriff’s office has needs that have increased in other areas.

During the Horry County Council’s planning retreat in December, the sheriff’s office put a multi-million dollar future project on the council’s radar.

The department outlined the potential need for 21 correctional officers and an additional 128 beds annex. Meeting documents show those additions would cost more than $2.5 million.

Chief Deputy Tom Fox said this expense may not be needed in the near future if inmate populations continue to stay stable. He said the detention center averages about 740 inmates a day. Currently, the center can house 1,000 inmates.

“It’s typically been growing at five to six percent but it’s mostly stabilized this year. So you’ve got to plan for the future, if it grows five percent over the next five years, obviously we’d be over 1,000 in the next four to five years, so we’ll be overcrowded,” Fox said. “It’s just part of the budget projection plan that we have to project out capital needs for future expenditures.”

In 2017, the center had close to 900 inmates. At the time, the sheriff told WMBF the center was understaffed.

Fox said inmate reduction programs and a population control specialist has helped get inmates through the system faster.

The department has also added four new correctional officers to its budget since 2017. The increase in hires stems from a staffing study that found 15 additional officers were needed at the detention center.

Next fiscal year will be the fourth and final year where the county will spend close to $200,000 to hire three more correctional officers.

As the sheriff’s office adds more resources at the detention center, it also identified a need at the Justice Center.

Fox explained the sheriff’s office is now providing deputies at Horry County Council meetings as well as some planning meetings.

“Twenty years ago you never had contentious events and meetings. Across the nation now there has been more violence at public meetings, so as a precaution we have added this security,” Fox said.

Two additional court officers would cost around $133,000.

Fox said he hopes additional staff will help reduce overtime.

The sheriff’s office spent more than $200,000 on overtime during the last two fiscal years, according to county records.

This year’s budget shows the detention center hopes to reduce overtime by 14,000 hours.

Along with officers, the center is spending on upgrading technology. Currently, it is in the process of a $400,000 upgrade for its camera system.

“They are an important part as far as the overall security of the jail and staying up to date with current technology gives us the ability to better view incidents involving inmates and staff and overall security of the jail, increases our awareness,” Fox said.

J. Ruben Long Detention Center is operating on a $28 million budget that has increased by $3 million since the 2017-18 fiscal year.

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