Staff forced to work mandatory overtime to handle understaffing at J. Reuben Long

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Detention officers at J. Reuben Long have to work mandatory overtime shifts but still can’t handle the number of inmates in the jail.

During a meeting Tuesday, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson begged county leaders for help. The jail holds 1,000 people, and right now it’s pushing 900. Thompson said they’re only able to handle about half of these inmates with the staff they have now.

“It adds stress,” says Sheriff Thompson. “It’s a morale factor. It’s a morale issue. My concern is the safety issue.”

Tuesday’s meeting was not the first time the sheriff has brought up the issue of understaffing of detention center officers and overcrowding of inmates.

“We’re staffed with 650 average daily population. When you got 850, then what that does is it creates a mandatory overtime situation,” Thompson explains.

Memorial Day Weekend alone brought in more than 300 people to the detention center. Staff now have to work on their days off and often stay hours after their shift ends.

“What that does is it tests our system,” said Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

“It increases a lot of our costs, a lot of our overtime costs we have with our personnel. Then what people don’t realize is you have a lot of health issues that you have to deal with,” adds Lazarus.

Lazarus said the increase in inmates also costs the county when it comes to healthcare.

“I’m not advocating that we want people out of jail when they need to be in jail,” voices the councilman. “But what we are advocating are some simple processes that people just don’t have the money for bond or other issues that we could get them through the system.”

Lazarus says one way to help control the inmate population is to implement a night court system that could actually bond people out after normal daytime hours.

Currently, there are 15 vacancies at the detention center that should be filled by July 10, but council and the sheriff said more needs to be done.

“We’re gonna look at our whole system, and then we’re gonna sit down. Because this is not under our jurisdiction, it’s under the delegation’s jurisdiction,” Lazarus said. “They’re the ones that appoint the judges. So we’re gonna have to sit down with them and see what we can come up with.”

Lazarus said next they’ll meet with the new public safety administrator to see how the county will handle the staffing shortage and what needs to be done to start night court.