York County’s only state prison is closing next month because of dwindling inmate numbers. The 32 workers at the Catawba Pre-Release Center will have the chance to work at other prisons in nearby counties, prison officials say, but it remains unclear what the state of South Carolina will do with the property just south of Rock Hill.
Closing the prison will save the state $200,000 each year because it is at less than two-thirds capacity, prison officials said, but won’t cause a job loss. The 21 corrections officers at the prison and 11 support staff can transfer to other prisons, said Dexter Lee, a S.C. Department of Corrections spokesman. State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, said he was assured by prison officials that employees will be sent to the state prison in Kershaw in Lancaster County so no jobs will be lost.
S.C. State Sen. Wes Climer, R-Rock Hill, said it is crucial the prisons do not lose employees because there is a severe staffing shortage at prisons around the state.
“We can’t afford to lose dedicated employees when we already are in a situation where we need more prison workers,” Climer said.
With changes in state law in 2010 concerning prison sentencing for some crimes that resulted in fewer minimum security prisoners, state officials decided to close the prison open since 1970, said Lee the prisons spokesman. The 123 inmates in a prison capable of holding 188 inmates will be shipped to other sites.
The prison on Milling Road at the corner of Ogden Road is for minimum security inmates and has no wire or walls around it. Most inmates have finished much of their sentences and are at Catawba for work-release day jobs outside prison. In recent years, the prison has had several incidents where inmates either did not come back from work programs, or left the site.
Climer has reached out to state officials to see what the property might be used for after the prison closes in November.
Both Climer and Simrill said S.C. Department of Administration will have to assess the buildings and property.