Despite almost one million people being ordered to evacuate from east coast cities as Hurricane Florence nears land, a number of prisons in the evacuation zone have stated they will be leaving prisoners and prison guards right where they are.
MacDougall Correctional Institution in South Carolina is in the evacuation zone in Berkeley County, but according to Fox News, officials have decided it’s “safer to stay in place with the inmates.”
The medium security prison is home to 650 inmates, and, of course, security guards will also need to stay behind at the prison during the Category 3 hurricane that is currently barreling towards the coast.
Department of Corrections spokesman Dexter Lee explained to Vice News that it’s not the first time this has been done. The same prison was also not evacuated during the 1989 Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm, and the prison “didn’t have any structural damages,” Lee said.
Berkeley County has been ordered to evacuate by the governor, along with four other counties that are at highest risk for major storm damage in the state.
Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Jasper County will also not be evacuated, but the storm poses a much smaller threat to the area.
In the meantime, North Carolina started to evacuate inmates by the hundreds on Monday afternoon from both local and state prisons.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Jerry Higgins stated that the prisoners were being moved to larger facilities, with many who are incarcerated in county jails being moved to state prisons, reported the Charlotte Observer. All inmates will be returned to their assigned prisons once the threat of Florence has passed.
“All offenders affected by the move will be allowed to make a free phone call to a family member over the weekend,” Higgins said.
One thousand prisoners at the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia, were also moved Monday when the governor ordered “low-lying coastal areas” to evacuate. Inmates were transferred to the state’s largest prison, Greensville Correctional Center.
While Florence was downgraded to a Category 3 storm on Wednesday, experts are expecting it to pick up again to Category 4 before making landfall on Thursday.
“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” the National Weather Service said, warning that the storm would probably be the worst to hit the US in a quarter of a century, and will be “life-threatening” to those in its path.