south carolina won’t evacuate inmates during hurricane

September 13, 2018
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In the face of the fluctuating Hurricane Florence, state officials in South Carolina have decided against evacuating prisons in compliance with the mandatory evacuation notice for the “extremely dangerous major hurricane.” According to the state’s Department of Corrections spokesperson Dexter Lee, at least 650 inmates at the MacDougall Correctional Institution will not be evacuated, and will ride out the storm at the prison. “Previously, it’s been safer to stay in place with the inmates rather than move to another location.”

According to reports, the Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Jasper County was not being evacuated either, despite the emergency warnings for the region during the hurricane. (Evacuation orders have since been lifted as the storm’s path has changed directions.)

Reminder: Incarceration rates in South Carolina are among some of the highest in the world, and disproportionately affect people of color, whose communities are over-policed.

According to PrisonPolicy.org, South Carolina’s inmates of color all accounted for more of the state’s inmate population than white citizens with 1,996 Black citizens per every 100,000 Black citizens being incarcerated, 1,205 Hispanics per 100,000, and 1,055 Indigenous peoples per 100,00. These stats compared to White inmates who accounted for just 433 per 100,000 White citizens. What this comes down to is the devaluation of Black and brown lives which are already engaged in systematic criminalization and dehumanization within the prison industrial complex. For more information about the racial disparities between South Carolina inmates, check out PrisonPolicy.org’s comprehensive data.

Unfortunately, the decision to risk inmate lives during hurricanes and natural disasters isn’t a new practice in South Carolina: the state hasn’t evacuated inmates during such an event since 1999. “In most cases, it is safer for the public, officers, and inmates for a SCDC facility to hold in place rather than transfer and hold in a secondary location,” a prison spokesperson told the Post and Courier last year.