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More than 1,000 inmates at several prisons across the Carolinas have been ordered to stay behind during a mandatory evacuation of the state’s coastline ahead of Hurricane Florence, a category 4 storm that is expected to make landfall Thursday.
“Right now, we’re not in the process of moving inmates [at Ridgeland Correctional Institution],” South Carolina Department of Corrections spokesman Dexter Lee told The State. “In the past, it’s been safer to leave them there.”
The facility currently holds 934 prisoners and 119 staff members, all of whom are expected to remain put.
Vice News reports at least 650 inmates will be forced to ride out the storm at South Carolina MacDougall Correctional Facility, located 80 miles north of Ridgeland Correctional Institution. Prisoners at J. Reuben Long Detention Center, on the coast near the North Carolina border, will also stay despite the evacuation order, according to the Sun News.
“We’re monitoring the situation,” Lee told Vice. “Previously, it’s been safer to stay in place with the inmates rather than move to another location.”
State-wide evacuation plans have been in place since Saturday.
“We know the…order I’m issuing will be inconvenient,” S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday. “But we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.”
As Hurricane Harvey raged last year, Texas inmates who were not evacuated experienced a shortage of food and water. Similarly, Hurricane Irma saw nearly 4,500 prisoners in Florida abandoned. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Human Rights Watch reported that in one building alone, 600 prisoners were left in their cells for days as the prison flooded.
“They left us to die there,” Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate, told Human Rights Watch.