South Carolina lowers age requirement for corrections officers to 18
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Last month, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that lowers the age requirement for correctional officers in South Carolina.
Now, those as young as 18 can begin training once they receive a high school diploma.
“Part of being in here is as a correctional officer,” said Katharine Martin, a corrections officer who spoke to WMBF News about the bill. “You are also protecting the inmates. You are not just protecting yourself.”
It’s a three-year head start for high school graduates pursuing a law enforcement career. No prior experience is required.
The same goes for others who are looking to switch careers.
Martin is not a high school student, but she is an example of someone who does not need a law enforcement background to pursue a career.
“I said let’s do it. It’s a career that I was interested in, and let’s see how far I can go with it,” said Martin, who majored in psychology in college before becoming a corrections officer.
Detention officers do not carry firearms. Instead, new officers will be trained to use their own voices to de-escalate situations within the prison walls.
“It helps when you have a smiling face for someone that wants to listen to you for a little longer. I just thought I always had that type of personality that I would be able to be uplifting in a place that is not uplifting at all,” said Martin.
Once hired, the new officers will have 11 weeks of training with supervision. They must complete four weeks of pre-service training, four weeks with a field training officer and three weeks at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
Lowering the age requirement allows more opportunities to fill vacancies at jails and detention centers across the state.
“There are shortages in almost every industry,” said Marcus Rhodes, Director of the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway.
Rhodes said his department has been dealing with staff shortages since the pandemic, and that operating the 24/7 detention center with a low staff is a challenge.
He added that he’s already making moves to hire anyone who is interested.
“We are always looking for qualified, eager, and hungry public service in the correctional field,” said Rhodes.
Next week, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office will have a meeting with Horry County Schools to spread the word to those who are interested in a career in law enforcement.
The team is actively recruiting newcomers online and at job fairs.
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