Inmates who show their “naughty bits” to correctional officers could face additional jail time if a proposal making its way through the S.C. Legislature becomes law.
The bill calls for inmates who intentionally expose themselves to officers or staff to be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to an additional year in prison. Its sponsor, Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said the bill aims to protect correctional officers from inmates’ “naughty bits.”
“There are inmates who will intentionally expose themselves,” Hembree said. “They’re trying to humiliate (officers) and trying to undermine their authority. It’s, in my view, a form of assault.”
The bill was amended when it went before a Senate panel on Thursday. It now calls for increased penalties for repeat offenders. An inmate could face up to three years in prison for a second offense and up to five years in prison for a third offense.
Lt. Joli Rish Shumpert, of Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, said 212 inmates were found guilty of sexual misconduct violations in 2016. They faced sanctions such as temporary loss of commissary privileges to loss of visitation from family.
But the sanctions have not been effective at curbing the behavior, Rish Shumpert said. And it affects the jail’s ability to retain trained and qualified staff.
About 60 percent of the jail’s uniformed staff are women, she said. Without the proposed law, there’s no way to protect them from sexual misconduct from inmates.
“Female officers come to work understanding that sexual misconduct is likely to occur,” Rish Shumpert said. “They must be willing to subject themselves to this working condition on a daily basis.”
The jail’s director, Ronaldo Myers, also echoed the need for the law, because inmates are unfazed by sanctions.
“How can we effectively keep people and tell them we’re going to take care of them, if we don’t carry this through and make inmates be held responsible,” Myers said. “We’re doing all we can within our sanctions.”
Before advancing the bill to the next panel, senators also voted to determine the cost the state would incur by housing inmates for additional periods of time, at the request of Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston.
“It’s going to be hard to estimate,” said Hembree, adding that inmates don’t curb their behavior now because there are no consequences. “When they know they’re going to be prosecuted, it’s going to drop.”