SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The town is preparing to close its jail because the police chief says sending inmates to other jails will improve public safety and save money.
The town’s jail inside Surfside’s police department building, which was built in 1996, can only house inmates for six hours.
It also only has one male holding cell and one female cell.
“It’s kind of sad because when I started policing in Surfside in 1996, there’s been a jail here,” said Surfside police chief Kenneth Hofmann. “Ever since there’s been a Surfside, there’s been a jail. I hate to see this happen, but I don’t know that we have a choice.”
Town council approved a one-year trial plan for housing inmates at Tuesday’s meeting. Surfside police will send anyone arrested in the town to either the Myrtle Beach jail, or the county’s main jail in Conway called J. Reuben Long Detention Center.
Chief Hofmann says Surfside PD doesn’t have the staff to meet the demands of running its own jail or the ability to adequately train those running the jail.
“It became obvious to me that the police department’s holding facility was not in compliance with South Carolina Department of Corrections requirements in several critical areas,” he said.
One of Surfside’s transportation officers will bring inmates up to J. Reuben Long during peak evening hours. During day shifts or when the two SBPD transportation officers aren’t working, inmates would be taken to Myrtle Beach’s jail before going to J. Reuben Long.
The town’s inmate housing contract says Surfside will pay Myrtle Beach $25 a day per inmate. Chief Hofmann projects this would cost the town up to $15,000 per year.
Chief Hofmann says this will also keep his officers on patrol in town more often, instead of doing transports.
“I’ve discussed this option with (Horry County) Sheriff Phillip Thompson,” said Chief Hofmann. “He’s agreed to ensure transportation of Surfside prisoners from the Myrtle Beach jail, as long as (the Horry County Sheriff’s Office) can logistically support the transportation.”
Chief Hofmann and some residents say they hope this will save Surfside money in the future.
“If we were to get an inmate here, keep that inmate in our jail and, for God knows what reason, the inmate got some kind of injury, we would have a huge liability in a very possible lawsuit,” said Surfside resident Patricia Magliette.
Keeping the jail open and complying with state regulations would require Surfside to hire nine more officers. Chief Hofmann says that would cost the town about $600,000 a year.
Chief Hofmann also says the inmate housing plan will likely be in place in May, before the area’s bike weekends.