Weather News

SC officials not evacuating prison before Hurricane Dorian despite mandatory order

As Hurricane Dorian crawls toward the southeastern coast of the United States, South Carolina prison officials have decided not to evacuate a Lowcountry prison despite the governor mandating that coastal residents evacuate.

Staff members and about 950 inmates at Ridgeland Correctional Institution, which is located in the Jasper County evacuation zone, will remain at the medium-security prison for the duration of the storm, officials with the S.C. Department of Corrections tweeted Monday.

“The concrete (and) steel prison, built to updated hurricane standards after Hugo, is safe and secure,” the department tweeted. “Ridgeland has weathered many hurricanes, including a direct hit from Matthew in 2016, with no damage.”

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered parts of eight coastal counties evacuate on Sunday as projections for Hurricane Dorian began to veer toward the Palmetto State. Monday, transportation and safety officials reversed lanes on major roadways across the state to facilitate the evacuation.

As of Tuesday morning, Dorian is projected to sweep across the waters off of the South Carolina shoreline, but the storm may still take a leftward turn, forecasters warned.

No other South Carolina prisons are in areas currently under mandatory evacuation orders.

Prison officials have stocked Ridgeland Correctional with enough food, water and supplies to keep the population sustained for weeks, according to the tweets. The prison is also stocked with generator fuel.

The Corrections made an agreement with Jasper County officials to deliver more supplies if needed, according to the tweets.

Ridgeland Correctional officials did evacuate inmates with extra medical needs, according to the tweets.

Corrections called the prison “the safest place” for inmates and staff, “considering the strength of the buildings,” the department tweeted.

During Hurricane Florence last year, Corrections received nationwide attention after deciding not to evacuate two prisons located in mandatory evacuation zones, including Ridgeland Correctional. The story was first reported in The State.

Officials later changed course and evacuated Palmer Pre-Release Center in Florence, a minimum security facility housing 266 inmates. The higher security level Ridgeland Correctional and MacDougal Correctional did not evacuate.

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Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.