Ridgeville Correctional Institute, Local Jails Not Being Evacuated for Hurricane Florence

We’ve known for the past week or so that a major hurricane was likely headed for the SC coast.

When it appeared likely that Hurricane Florence’s track was going to bring it across South Carolina’s coastal regions, the governor issued a mandatory evacuation order for the coastal areas, including Horry County and Jasper County where the Ridgeville Correctional Institute is located.

“…we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one,” said the governor.

Except that the department of corrections had no intention of evacuating the prisoners held at the Ridgeville prison – perhaps the governor does not see prison inmates as “people?”

J. Reuben Long, the Horry County detention center located in Conway, SC, also has no plans for evacuating inmates although the hurricane is now projected to pass through Horry County.

Evacuate, Don’t Evacuate

On Tuesday, following a flood of criticism for failing to evacuate prison inmates, the governor announced he was lifting the evacuation order for Jasper County.

On Wednesday morning, the day after the governor lifted the evacuation order, the projected path of the hurricane has again changed – it is now expected to make a left turn after hitting the NC coast, bringing it south through the SC coastline and again putting Jasper county in the “red zone.”

As of today, there are still no plans to evacuate prisoners from the Ridgeway or the Conway facilities.

They Should Be Okay, Right?

Probably. I certainly hope so. At least on social media, some people say, “that’s the safest place for them to be…”

That may be true. Unless, of course, there is a complete loss of power, the facilities begin to flood, and the guards leave the inmates locked in their cells.

Which is exactly what happened during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans over a decade ago:

As the prison flooded with storm water befouled by raw sewage the prisoners were herded into cells with mace, locked down, and abandoned. The men completely panicked.

After the inmates began to riot, beating their cell doors with bed posts as the water slowly rose to their waists and then their chests, smashing windows and hanging burning shirts out of them, and sometimes jumping out of the windows, sheriff’s deputies returned and began to evacuate inmates – but, too little, too late:

In the chaos some were left behind, forgotten, and some inmates reported seeing prisoners who had drowned.

Andrew Joseph said he saw a body floating in the water with a rat sitting on its chest.

There were reports too of other deaths.

A member of the prison staff made a sworn statement that he had removed two body-bags containing the bodies of female deputies who had died, asphyxiated by smoke from burning mattresses.

A month after Hurricane Katrina, officials still could not account for over 500 missing inmates who may have been dead or may have just escaped:

Human Rights Watch says there are 517 unaccounted for, while prisoners and their lawyers say many were abandoned in the flooding jails.

Is this going to happen in SC?

I don’t think so, but it could. Officials in New Orleans also apparently thought the inmates would be fine, locked in their cells. As in New Orleans, SC officials are gambling with the lives of real people – they are not less human because they are locked in cages, are they?

Live in a coastal area? Worried about the impending storm? Imagine how you would feel if you were confined in a small cell as you wait for a hurricane to move into your area…

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Columbia, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach, SC

SC criminal defense attorney Lacey Thompson, at the Thompson Defense Firm, focuses her practice on criminal defense cases to better serve her clients.

If you have been charged with a crime in the areas of Myrtle Beach, Columbia, or Lexington, SC, call now at 843-444-6122 or send an email to discuss your case today.

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