Folks released from jail in Richland County won’t be getting taxis, which County Council previously was considering, but they might be getting a ticket to ride the COMET.
The bus system currently makes four stops every weekday at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the last at 3:18 p.m., according to COMET executive director Robert Schneider. Jail officials say to put detainees on a bus after release, they’d need a stop at least as late as 6:30 p.m. – and they’d need the bus to visit on weekends.
Right now, folks who do not have someone to come pick them up are dropped off by a county van at downtown Columbia’s bus transfer station to catch a bus from there to where they wanted to go. Area residents have complained that this practice leads to people wandering aimlessly while they wait for a bus or for local indigent services to open for the day.
Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, told the council of solutions he has seen work with people released from prison.
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“We try to release as close to the (timetable of the) bus that they’re taking as possible,” he said. “You’re sitting for 12 hours, you’re going to get bored. You’re going to go somewhere, and the next thing you know, you might be a guest of the county jail because you made a bad decision.”
Councilman Seth Rose argued that using the COMET could cut costs for the county by not having the expense of van transport and by not diverting a jail employee from other duties to drive the van. But he stressed the issue is not just a financial one.
“We have made great strides in the revitalization of Main Street,” he said. “We need to keep that going with progressive thinking. I want people to know why I’m putting this forward.”
In addition to the bus stop in the jail parking lot, Schneider said there’s one about a mile away, which currently operates on weekends. He suggested officials consider a shuttle to that location for weekend releases.
The county and the city of Columbia both are considering transportation options, officials said. City Manager Teresa Wilson did not respond to request for comment as to what options the city is considering.