The county surrounding MacDougall Correctional Facility is currently under a mandatory evacuation. This is due to the Category 4 Hurricane Florence headed that way. However, South Carolina DOC officials have no intentions on moving its inmates to safer facilities.
Are SC Inmates in Danger of Hurricane Florence?
Currently, more than 650 South Carolina prison inmates are being held at MacDougall. All are in danger of being caught in Hurricane Florence. According to SCDOC spokesperson Dexter Lee:
We’re monitoring the situation.
Previously, it’s been safer to stay in place with the inmates rather than move to another location.
MacDougall Correctional Facility is located in Berkeley County, one of the five placed under an order for mandatory evacuation by Gov. Henry McMaster on Tuesday. This level 2 medium-security prison can house up to 700 men.
Every correctional officer is expected to work their scheduled shifts during the hurricane watch, and if it actually hits the prison itself.
National Hurricane Center Issues Warning: SC DOC Declines to Move Inmates
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued warnings for those in the following states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
NHC warns that Hurricane Florence may cause:
- A life-threatening storm surge
- Prolonged and heavy rains
- Catastrophic and dangerous flooding
- Damaging winds with hurricane force
To date, not one of the prisons in the State of South Carolina have been evacuated because of hurricanes since Hurricane Floyd. That was back in 1999.
Hurricane Florence Evacuations: Virginia & North Carolina Move Prisoners to Safety
On the other hand, both Virginia and North Carolina have made moves to keep their prison inmates safe during the wake of the hurricane.
Tuesday, North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) began preparing for evacuations at three of its eastern state prison facilities. There are also evacuation plans for Wednesday at five other NC prison facilities.
NCDPS communications officer Jerry Higgins said:
We’re moving inmates and staff because of what we feel is safety concerns based on the information we have. It’s safer to move operations away from the storm.
Pros & Cons of Prison Evacuations Due to Hurricanes
The greatest benefit of a prison evacuation when a hurricane is on the way is plain and simple… the safety of both inmates and staff.
On the other hand, there is a major disadvantage to these types of evacuations… it can be very costly. This can lead to other disadvantages, such as:
- Time consuming
- Escape attempts
- Other types of risks
These aren’t tiny facilities.
It’s an operation to get buses and make sure you have the staff there to transport offenders from one facility to another. It’s a pretty big operation, but it’s one that’s been in the planning for days.
However, there are some seriously dangerous consequences to abandoning prisoners in the face of a hurricane. And, we’ve seen it happen in the past.
The History of Abandoning Prisoners During Hurricanes
During Hurricane Harvey, federal prison inmates were abandoned in a facility near Houston, Texas in August 2017. These prisoners reported:
- No drinking water
- Flooding from sewage
- Shortage of food
Most of these inmates suffered through Hurricane Harvey while still locked inside their prison cells.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans Parish Prison officials abandoned its prisoners, and left them to fend for themselves on the inside. Over 600 Louisiana state prisoners were left unsupervised… all in a single building.
Many of the LA prisoners were locked inside the cells throughout the entire ordeal. They watched the flood waters come inside the facility for days, until it actually rose to chest level. Eventually, they were evacuated.
Do you agree with SCDOC’s decision to wait it out?
Or, should prison officials be required to evacuate just like everyone else in the area?
Tell us what you think in the comments below.