Possible Detention Center in the Works for South Carolina

By Lisa Kopochinski

HORRY COUNTY, S.C.—A multi-million-dollar detention center may be in the future for Horry County.

According to WMFB News, while the number the number of inmates at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County has decreased in recent years, the Sheriff’s Office has needs that have increased in other areas.

The Sheriff’s Office discussed a multi-million-dollar future project during the Horry County Council’s planning retreat in December.

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

The department outlined the potential need for an additional 128 beds annex and 21 correctional officers—all of which could surpass $2.5 million.

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

“It’s typically been growing at five to six percent, but it’s mostly stabilized this year. 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. It’s just part of the budget projection plan that we have to project out capital needs for future expenditures.”

Three years ago, the center had close to 900 inmates. At the time, Fox told local media the center was understaffed, and that inmate reduction programs and a population control specialist helped get inmates through the system faster.

Since 2017, the department has added four new correctional officers, even though a staffing study at that time found that 15 additional officers were actually needed at the detention center.

Fox said this 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.

Two additional court officers would cost more than $130,000, which Fox hopes would help reduce overtime.

According to County records, the Sheriff’s Office spent more than $200,000 on overtime during the last two fiscal years. This year’s budget shows the detention center hopes to reduce overtime by 14,000 hours.

The center is also in the process of spending $400,000 to upgrade technology, including 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,” added Fox.