Residents in cities and towns flee to safety during hurricanes. Workers abandon their jobs and scamper off to safety centers. Hospitals and nursing homes as well as schools are quickly evacuated to safeguard the lives of people. But one class of people is always left behind during storms until it is way too late: prison inmates.
What this means is that while almost everybody can choose whether to run or stay, prison inmates await the discretion of the authorities to evacuate or not. And this has nearly been the case in South Carolina when hurricanes hit recently.
Millions of people in Texas, South Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico were displaced when three massive hurricanes hit, but prison inmates can only pray for divine intervention.
Evacuations Require Massive Logistics and Advance Preparations
The truth however is that evacuating prison inmates during hurricanes is a huge task. Depending on the forecast for the storm, county sheriffs and prison authorities may plan ahead for evacuation or begin to act days before it fully descends.
To make sure that nothing goes wrong, correctional staff in some prison facilities practice for evacuation up to four times within any given year.
The appropriate agencies in South Carolina plan ahead for hurricanes, but the event does not usually occur. The last time the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) evacuated inmates was in 1999. That was during Hurricane Floyd when inmates from the MacDougall Correctional Institution were moved to safety.
Charleston County Too Move Inmates in Phases If Disaster Looms
Jeff Taillon, spokesman for SCDC, noted that prison inmates and officials are always much safer when facilities hold against the storm than moving them to secondary locations. Over 1,000 inmates in Charleston County had never been evacuated in over 20 years, but the Sheriff’s Office said they are prepared for any eventualities.
Major Eric Watson of Charleston County said being located on the East Coast has placed them in an emergency-ready mode. He said in the rare event that natural disaster looms, they will begin to transfer inmates in phases immediately rather than moving over 1,000 inmates at once.
To analyze the risks of natural disasters in real-time, the SCDC and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division together with the Governor’s Office work together to take actions.