Saying fewer inmates are returning to the corrections system, South Carolina officials said Tuesday the state will close its second minimum-security prison in a year.
In a news release, Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said the agency would close the Coastal Pre-Release Center effective April 1. The 124 inmates there now will be moved to another facility, and Coastal’s correctional officers will take jobs at a medium-security prison in Ridgeville, officials said.
The move is also expected to save money for the department. Stirling said that Corrections had been leasing most of Coastal’s property from Charleston County and stands to save more than $450,000 with the closure.
“Relocating resources from Coastal Pre-Release will allow us to reinvest in security at SCDC and reduce overcrowding in level-2 institutions,” Stirling said.
Opened in 1970, Coastal is a minimum-security prison for male inmates who have served most of their sentences and have the opportunity to participate in work-release programs, in hopes of helping them reintegrate into life outside prison.
Stirling said closing it is possible due to sentencing reform and the fact that fewer inmates are returning to the corrections system. The rate of repeat offenders returning to prison, recidivism, has declined steadily, according to the department, falling from 30.6 percent in 2008 to 29.4 percent a year later, then to 27.5 percent in 2010.
Last spring, Corrections said it would begin the process of closing the Campbell Pre-Release Center, part of the vast, multiprison complex at the agency’s Columbia headquarters. At that time, Stirling also cited declining recidivism as a reason for the closure. Online records showed Tuesday that Coastal was only about two-thirds full.
Before that, the last prison to close in South Carolina was the Watkins Pre-Release Center – a facility similar to Campbell – in 2012. Overall, Corrections currently operates a total of seven all-male minimum-security prisons that house a total of around 2,500 inmates.
System-wide, there were 21,066 people in South Carolina’s state prisons as of Tuesday morning, according to the agency’s website.