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South Carolina lawmakers OK $92 million in prison upgrades

October 6, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina corrections officials will move forward with $92 million in improvement projects at prisons statewide after lawmakers’ approval.

The Joint Bond Review Committee’s Tuesday approval marks the state’s largest one-year investment in prison improvements, The Post and Courier reported.

“What it’s going to do is make our prisons safer and make the men and women who work in law enforcement safer,” Department Director Bryan Stirling told the newspaper.

A 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville left seven inmates dead and shed light on staffing shortages and outdated security systems at state prisons. Lawmakers have since acknowledged that prison upgrades should be prioritized.

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Legislators were set to approve $100 million in facility upgrades last year. The coronavirus pandemic upended the budget process, and lawmakers instead copied over the prior year’s budget.

Since then, estimated costs for the first phase of fixes — which include new fire alarm systems, cell locks, observation towers and security electronics — have risen due to inflation. A list of projects intended to cost $93 million will now cost the agency $109 million, a 17% price jump since the fall of 2018, according to agency estimates.

That means a handful of projects will likely be put on hold.