South Carolina prison officials want more than $50M boost
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina prison officials asked state lawmakers Wednesday for more than $50 million to increase security, pay officers more and help improve health care for inmates.
Corrections Deputy Director of Administration Thom Osmer presented the agency’s priorities to a Senate subcommittee, saying mental health and pay raises are at the top of the list.
“Our number one priority is mental health and competitive salaries,” said Osmer who spoke to lawmakers on behalf of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling. “We still have a lot of work to do to increase salaries.”
Osmer said the agency has faced challenges hiring and keeping qualified health professionals in the corrections system due to low and non-competitive salaries. Funding for adequate staffing and enrichment programs is needed to handle mental health episodes inside the prison system.
State prison officials want $6 million in bonuses and raises to help hire new guards and keep current employees. Osmer said the agency would like to raise the base salary of correction officers by at least $1,000 to remain competitive with other law enforcement agencies.
Subcommittee Chairman Shane Martin told prison officials he thinks they need the additional money and there is a good chance their requests will get in the state’s $9 billon budget.
“I want to make sure when we get them in there we keep them,” Martin said. “As long as the officers are there and happy, they do better.”
The agency also asked for $40 million to replace cell doors so they all can be locked or opened at once; extra security cameras; and locked control rooms elevated so guards can see everywhere.
Another $10 million would be allocated to Hepatitis C treatment, prescription monitoring programs and video health care consultations to assess treatment for non-life threatening injuries.
“I think these requests are reasonable,” said Martin, R-Spartanburg. “We get a better chance of getting things done in phases.”