South Carolina – South Carolina prisons are about to see serious improvements in the upcoming period after the lawmakers approved the $92 million worth prisons improvement project.
According to the agency director, with the current safety system, correctional officer might spend up to half of their 12-hour-long shift only in locking and unlocking cell doors.
The $92 million worth project will include improvement and modernizing of the locks and other security measures in the state prisons.
“Everyone watches TV and they think, ‘ok, open-cell number 2, and then cell number 2 buzzes and it opens.’ That’s not the way it works at SCDC. That’s not the way it was built about 30 or 40 years ago,” Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said while holding up the large metallic key officers use to open each individual cell.
“When you open that door and you’re standing there and it is you and those two inmates, that is the opportunity for assault.”
With the new approved project, Stirling said they will be able to implement completely new automated electronic locking system that would be controlled through a dedicated control room meaning improved safety and less time spent on manually locking and unlocking every single cell.
Currently, the process takes 30-40 minutes and with the new modern locking system that would be down to three to four minutes.
Other upgrades include cross fencing that will prevent inmates from being able to move from one dorm to another, observation towers, and moving the recreational yards so inmates can be more visible.
If this system was implemented earlier, it would’ve helped officers three and a half years ago during the deadly riots at Lee Correctional Institution.
“Hopefully, it will cut down on contraband. With the rec yards on the inside of the yard versus the outside, they will be able to get rec more easily and they will have more eyes on them. So, f an incident does happen we will be able to see it,” he said.
Additionally, the project includes day to day improvements that will ease the correctional officers’ job, but will also improve the safety in the prisons. Part of the project includes heating and cooling system upgrades and fire alarms.
“These heating and cooling units were put in when these prisons were built which is 30 to 40 years old, these things break on a very, very regular basis,” he said.
Stirling said the department’s facilities division is figuring out which upgrades need to be handled by private businesses, but the process of modernizing the prisons is starting now.