HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Horry County Sheriff’s Office is among several agencies across South Carolina that are experiencing a shortage of corrections officers, and lawmakers hope a bill currently in the House Judiciary Committee will help fix the problem.

The legislature would lower the minimum age requirement for corrections officers from 21 to 18.

“To amend section 23-23-60, code of laws of South Carolina, 1976, relating to the issuance of certificates of compliance and qualification to law enforcement officers and persons trained by the criminal justice academy, and the law enforcement training council’s authority to oversee the operation of the training of law enforcement officers and receipt of certain information from governing bodies about candidates seeking certification, so as to provide detention and correctional officer candidates must be at least eighteen years of age.”

South Carolina General Assembly

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson supports the bill.

“It gives us a different pool of folks to recruit from,” he said. “We’ve always had vacancies. But we’ve never had vacancies like we have today.”

Because of the pandemic, Thompson said his department is experiencing a shortage of corrections officers. In the past, 100 to 150 people would apply, but now they only get about 20.

“Then, by the time you do backgrounds and background checks and things of this nature, you’re lucky to get four or five people out of that group,” Thompson said.

He said he would like to hire 50 more officers and thinks the bill can help by allowing the hiring of 18-year-olds who’ve recently finished high school.

“They can qualify to go into the military,” he said. “Why can’t they qualify to go into detention corrections.”

He said they would be very closely supervised and work at one location the entire time, in this case, the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. He said they would have a Taser and pepper spray but not a gun and would go through training. He said the job is really about supervision.

“You’re not enforcing the law, you’re carrying out duties within the detention facility,” he said.

He stressed the three Cs: care, custody, and control.

According to the county’s website, the position has a salary range of $37,180 to $54,596 and has the following minimum requirements.

  • High school diploma or must possess a GED.
  • Must be at least 21 years of age. (would change to 18 if law passes)
  • Clear criminal history, must possess valid SC Driver’s License with no prior DUI or DUS convictions within the past five years.
  • Results of all pre-employment tests and interviews must meet standards.
  • Past employment record must be satisfactory.
  • Must pass a pre-employment background check, drug test and medical examination which results show that they are capable of performing all essential functions of the job for which they are applying, with reasonable accommodation.
  • Must pass the required pre-employment physical and background check.

Thompson also said that if they could get more employees, then the current ones wouldn’t have to do mandatory overtime to keep the detention center functioning like normal.

“We’ve been able to make sure that we’re safe, our inmates are safe,” he said. “And by the same token what’s so very important, our employees are safe, but we need more people to be able to keep it running like it should run.”

For more information and to apply, visit the employment page on Horry County Government’s website.