Media Contact

Jessica McFadden, Communications Director, jmcfadden@aclusc.org, (843) 282-7951

September 13, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2018

CHARLESTON, SC - The following can be attributed to Executive Director Shaundra Y. Scott, Esq.:

South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Dexter Lee confirmed that the 52-year old prison in Ridgeville, SC will not evacuate, despite Governor Henry McMaster’s (R) mandatory evacuation order for low-lying counties on the coast of South Carolina, ahead of Hurricane Florence’s landfall which is anticipated to happen Friday, September 14.  The hurricane is being regarded as potentially the most destructive hurricane in recorded history, more so than Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The decision not to evacuate state prisons doesn’t mention local jails and detention centers, which are often woefully underprepared for anything out of the ordinary and are under local county purview. 

In both those hurricanes, as well as other significant storms, decisions were made to hold prisoners in their cells despite the dire weather warnings.  This means state officials must assure the prisons have adequate ventilation, food, water, medication, generators, staffing and a preparedness plan that has been practiced, as well as an additional contingency plan in place in case an evacuation is necessary due to deteriorating conditions.  It’s unsurprising, though, that we have our doubts given the conditions reported at other state prisons, specifically Lee Correctional Institution, which saw the deadliest prison riot in decades.  South Carolina’s track record of prison conditions is not good, at best.

Other states learned the hard way that treating prisoners as second-class citizens – and by extension, prison staff – during hurricanes can have horrific outcomes.  In the year after Katrina, the ACLU’s National Prison Project released a report, Abandoned & Abused, highlighting the absolute atrocity that inmates and jail staff had to endure during and after Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans, LA, in 2005.  Inmates have been adjudicated in a court of law and their sentence has been set – and nowhere in the Constitution is “death by natural disaster” an acceptable punishment.

The ACLU of South Carolina does not want to see this state become another statistic in the treatment of inmates, particularly when the possible outcomes of tragedy are avoidable. This storm is slated to be one of the worst we have ever seen, and if Gov. McMaster truly does not want to “gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina,” he needs to make sure that the prison system is up to par, or evacuate the inmates just as he has ordered the rest of us to do.

This press release can be found at: https://www.aclusc.org/en/press-releases/gov-mcmaster-declines-evacuate-...

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