COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- As the number of coronavirus cases rises in the state, so does the number of cases inside the state’s prisons.
The Department of Corrections has made several changes to its procedures since March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, SCDC has hade to make additional changes as more inmates and staff test positive.
Before the first cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, SCDC was already preparing for the worst.
The department canceled visitation and limited the staff on site. “We knew the way this was going to get in was going to be through our front gates through our employees,” said Director Bryan Stirling.
That theory proved right.
The very first cases of COVID-19 in state prisons were staff members.
Since then the virus has spread, more than 150 staff members and 370 inmates have tested positive. Most of them at Tyger River Correctional Institute.
Director Stirling explained, “Tyger River, unfortunately, was built in 1980 and the decision at the time did not put sinks or toilets in the cells. So the folks have to go the common bathroom and that’s where you can have a lot of spread.”
Many staff members have been cleared to return to work. More than half of the inmates are still recovering.
The department is now ramping up its procedures to make sure other prisons don’t see numbers similar to Tyger River.
“If you remember it took about 2 weeks to get your test results back. Now we’re down to 24-72 hours, which is amazing. Ultimately, we’d like to have test where those results are immediate so we can say ok you can’t come in, you have COVID,” added Stirling.
More than 130 inmates at Tyger River have tested positive for the coronavirus. Out of those inmates only 1 has been cleared.
The department is no longer accepting new male inmates until after July 31st. Ridgeland Correctional Institute is still the only prison without a positive case.