J. Reuben Long Detention Center sees lowest occupancy rate since 2002

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – In the last two weeks the J. Reuben Long Detention Center saw it’s lowest occupancy rate in nearly 20 years.

Before the pandemic hit the Grand Strand, JRLDC Director Marcus Rhodes says more than 700 inmates were being held.

“Jail numbers were down to about 492 about two weeks ago,” said 15th Circuit Court Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

As of Friday morning 531 inmates are booked.   

Chief Deputy Tom Fox of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office says the record low number came from Average Daily Population reports during the 2002-03 time period.   

But fewer inmates doesn’t necessarily mean less work for corrections officers.

“While we are experiencing the benefit of lower numbers, the work for managing a jail and the operations of the jail. The operations of the jail are quite different,” said Rhodes.

New guidelines orders for more labor – including daily, extensive cleaning.

Rhodes says newly booked inmates are separated from the general population in observation units, where they are monitored for COVID-19 sypmtoms.

Corrections officers are distancing inmates as much as possible.

“There are scheduled feeding times, meal times for the units and what we’ve done is we’ve bracketed those in a way that fewer inmates eat together,” said Rhodes.

With fewer people visiting the Grand Strand and social distancing may be some reasons for the low occupancy rate.

Courts are still in session for bond hearings, which also contribute to fewer numbers.

“[Judges have] worked hard to keep up in an effort to manage the population at the jail and to take care of our citizens as well,” said Rhodes.

Making sure inmates are given clear and honest communication COVID-19 updates.

“Whether they have or whether they have not, they’re individuals. Their men and women that have the same human dignity as you and I. So communication is often,” said Rhodes.

With fewer people jailed you may think taxpayer dollars are being saved, but Rhodes says that will take some time to tell.

“We still have to operate the jail in a similar fashion. I’m sure there’s some impact, but most of the infrastructure and the personnel and staff have to be present to function anyway,” said Rhodes.

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