Pubdate: Tue, 03 Oct 2000
Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal (SC)
Copyright: 2000 The Spartanburg Herald-Journal


The level of corruption among guards in South Carolina's prisons may not be 
as widespread as some would have the public think, but a system that allows 
a prison employee to resign rather than face prosecution for a criminal act 
will only perpetuate the disobedience.

A former state Department of Corrections internal affairs investigator, who 
came forward following reports of guards having sex with inmates, says 
guards who regularly provide illegal drugs to prisoners are a bigger 
problem and that the guards often are given the choice of resigning rather 
than being prosecuted.

It shouldn't be a choice, and when Corrections Director William "Doug" 
Catoe said the practice of accepting a guard's resignation over prosecution 
would be reviewed, he should have stated that he would be putting an 
immediate end to all such deals with corrections employees who choose to 
violate law.

Quietly resigning never should be an option for a guard who distributes 
illegal drugs in prison.

Similarly, the practice of merely firing guards for having sex with inmates 
should be discontinued and prosecution sought in every incident.

Catoe has suggested that turnover rates and inexperience can be blamed for 
the problem, but it hasn't always been the rookie guard caught dealing 
drugs or having sex with an inmate. A guard with 13 years of experience is 
accused of having an affair with an inmate, and a lieutenant, among the 
Department of Corrections' highest ranking officers, was accused of 
distributing drugs.

Common sense should tell even the inexperienced guard that you're not 
supposed to sell illegal drugs to people in jail or anywhere else. If not, 
it should become obvious by the guard's surroundings on the first day on 
the job. The jails are crowded with drug offenders serving long prison terms.

It is unacceptable when guards choose to violate laws and aren't 
prosecuted. When a guard has sex with an inmate, it's a crime. When a guard 
deals in illegal drugs, whether with inmates or other persons, he should 
face prosecution just as those who are under his watch behind bars.

A look into these illegal activities by the State Law Enforcement Division 
and possibly the FBI, in addition to hearings being conducted by the 
Senate's prisons committee, will give the public an idea of how widespread 
the problem is, but prison officials are going to have to review their 
policies and make changes before the problem is reduced.
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