Prison reform advocates react to Governor's Executive Order on t - FOX Carolina 21

Prison reform advocates react to Governor's Executive Order on the Department of Corrections

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(Source: Associated Press) (Source: Associated Press)

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has cleared the way for the Department of Corrections to hire more officers, increase salaries and provide more overtime and bonuses with an Executive Order, signed on Monday.

The order also allows South Carolina's prison system to buy what's needed to make prisons safer for workers and inmates, including installing netting to keep out contraband like cellphones.

It comes after seven prisoners died at Lee Correctional in a riot this month.  But some say these changes are reactionary, and they should've happened sooner - and that much more needs to be done.

Prison rights advocate Jerry Blassingame runs Soteria, a ministry in Greenville that helps ex-inmates start their lives over.  He says news about the riot was devastating.

"I was sad, I was mad, all these emotions came and I had some opportunity to see some footage people had sent out via cell phones and that was just devastating," he said.

Blassingame says the executive order is too little too late.

"We should've been putting that money in the prison system years ago," he said. "People have to die for us to realize we have a problem?  No."

Senator Karl Allen sits on the Corrections and Penology Committee.  He says, while it's important to have the Governor's attention on the matter, the order doesn't address another major problem.

"It doesn't talk about any creative ways the administration is addressing the low morale that exists between the inmates and the staff," Allen said. "That is an indication of a deeper problem that I think is part of what we've seen at Lee."

He said it's about really listening to find solutions.

"We are interested in hearing, not just from the director but the inmates themselves as well as other employees," he said.

Senator Allen also announced a bipartisan sub-committee that he will be chairing to get information from the DOC on morale and contraband issues.  He wants to hear from workers and inmates, who he hopes can share what's really going on.

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