A route on the Midlands bus system has been extended to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, picking up at the jail a few times a day.
City and county leaders have struggled to find a solution for transporting released detainees. While bus leaders say it is not intended to shuttle freed detainees, the detainees – those released on bond or released after serving jail time – still have the option to get on board alongside other passengers.
The stop on Route 4 was added about five months ago.
Bob Schneider, executive director of The COMET – the new name of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority – said the expanded route helps provide transportation for those who work at Alvin S. Glenn, which he said is a “huge employment center.”
The route is not a detainee shuttle, said Columbia City Councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman, who is chairman of the transit board. He called it a pilot stop.
Newman said there was no plan in creating a specific bus line for people released from the detention center.
“I’m not interested in doing that, plain and simple,” Newman said.
During the day, released detainees who do not have a ride from the detention center are dropped off at the main bus terminal at Sumter and Laurel streets, said Richland County Councilman Seth Rose.
“I’ve been pushing hard to put something else in place,” said Rose, who represents Council District 5, a large portion of which is the downtown area.
But he does not think the best solution would be the bus system.
“With the passage of the penny sales tax, I don’t want to compromise the perception of (the transit system),” he said.
He said a voucher system with a private shuttle could be a solution.
Detainees released after the end of the business day are taken directly to the city’s emergency winter shelter operated by Christ Central Ministries near the city water plant on the Columbia Canal. The Columbia Police Department originally was planning to drop them off at the department’s headquarters in the Vista, but nearby business owners voiced concern.
Previously, released detainees were dropped off after hours at the bus terminal at Sumter and Laurel streets, but people complained that they were then free to roam around the city late at night.
However, during the day, released prisoners can ride the bus that picks up at the detention center. Riding costs $1.50, Schneider said.
“They’re just like everyone else,” he said. “It’s the same as if they were housed in a downtown facility and they got out on Main Street.”
However, the route does not line up with court schedules, Schneider said.
“We’re not prisoner transport,” he said.
He said there are no special programs or discount passes for released detainees – and there has not been any discussion for such plans.
“It’s just a route like it would be for anyone else,” he said.
He said the transit system plans to market to other major employers, especially city, county and state government.
Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.