MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — An initiative in Marlboro County will give high school students a chance to gain hands-on experience in the detention center.

The program includes a criminal justice course and would help students secure jobs as correctional officers after graduation.

Interim Sheriff Larry McNeil spearheaded the “301 initiative.”

Since then, McNeil and the Marlboro County School District partnered to bring the criminal justice course to 11th-graders.

When they turn 18, they can then attend a nine-week internship working at the county jail.

“We’ve been able to find jobs and placements for these kids so they don’t have to worry,” McNeil said. “Because everyone’s not going to college. So, by deciding not to go to college right now, they can go straight to work. They’ll earn a salary just like everyone else.”

McNeil said recent graduates return to school to talk about their experiences in the program with their classmates.

“It gives them an opportunity to go and speak with some of their own peers,” he said. “Because we’ve already talked with the juniors and seniors at the high school.”

Marlboro County ranked among the top five counties in South Carolina for violent crime in 2022, according to the state Law Enforcement Division’s crime report.

McNeil said the sheriff’s office has doubled its arrest rate and has answered more than 2,000 calls this year, but he thinks the program may be a solution.

“The more accessible that we are, the more people that can see us out and about, I think the better it will be,” he said.

McNeil said there are only two openings left, but he’s currently requesting for the funding to hire more people.

Once the positions at the Marlboro County Detention Center are filled, participants can still work at other detention centers.

* * *

Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.