SC Dept. of Corrections battles crime behind bars; data shows contraband and drug use common

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SCDC oversight subcommittee

The Department of Corrections is in the process of being reviewed by a Legislative Oversight Committee. The committee is looking at everything from the agency’s operations to its recurring issues. 

On Tuesday, SCDC provided data to the small subcommittee outlining the most common crimes insides the state’s prisons including more than 130 assaults so far this year.

“At one time prisons were there and once someone was sent there they didn’t have contact with anyone but now they can use their cell phones and continue their criminal ways,” explained Director Bryan Stirling. 

And this constant cell phone use is leading to greater problems inside the prisons’ gates. 

Director Stirling recalled an incident in 2018, where inmates used cell phones to scam military members out of money. 

“We saw last fall the sextortion scam with folks using cell phones and also drug dealing we see a lot of that.”

Documents given to the subcommittee include data concerning types of crimes and how often they occur. The information also includes how the department responds to those offenses. 

According to the data, there have 1398 disciplinary offenses so far this year for drug use and possession. There has also been more than 130 disciplinary offenses for inmate on inmate assaults, 1500 for cell phone possession and 500 for possession of a weapon.

“Criminal activity doesn’t stop at the front gates of our prisons. And how do we fix that is my focus,” said Representative Micah Caskey, who serves on the subcommittee. 

SCDC has implemented several measures to prevent some of that criminal activity. The department has installed extended netting and cell phone detection devices to curb contraband coming inside the prisons. 

The department also sent 48 inmates to a private prison in Mississippi. 

Director Stirling continued, “They recommended that was a good tool to disrupt and control the prison population some of the leaders.”

The committee will continue to meet for the rest of the year with a goal of proposing legislation to improve the state’s prisons. 

As of May 30th the department has conducted 4 homicide investigations this year. In 2018, there were 7 and in 207 there were 9. 

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