Duties and functions

Lowering age requirement could help Horry County deal with corrections officer shortage, sheriff says

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County Sheriff’s Office is among several South Carolina agencies experiencing a shortage of correctional officers, and lawmakers are hoping a bill currently on the Judiciary Committee of the Chamber will help solve the problem.

The legislator would lower the minimum age required for prison officers from 21 to 18 years old.

“Amend Section 23-23-60 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, 1976, relating to the issuance of certificates of compliance and qualification to law enforcement officers and justice academy trained persons Criminal Law, and the authority of the Law Enforcement Training Board to oversee the operation of law enforcement training and the receipt of certain information from governing bodies about candidates for certification, so as to to be provided to detention and corrections officers Applicants must be at least eighteen years of age.

South Carolina General Assembly

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson supports the bill.

“It gives us a different pool of people to recruit,” he said. “We have always had vacancies. But we never had vacancies like we have today.

Due to the pandemic, Thompson said his department is experiencing a shortage of correctional officers. In the past, 100 to 150 people applied, but now they only receive about 20.

“Then by the time you do background checks and background checks and things of that nature, you’re lucky to get four or five people out of that group,” Thompson said.

He said he would like to hire 50 more officers and thinks the bill can help by allowing the hiring of 18-year-olds who have recently graduated from high school.

“They can qualify to join the military,” he said. “Why can’t they qualify to go to correctional detention.”

He said they would be supervised very closely and work at one location all the time, in this case, the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. He said they would have a Taser and pepper spray but no firearms and would undergo training. He said the job is really about supervision.

“You are not enforcing the law, you are carrying out duties within the detention center,” he said.

He emphasized the three Cs: care, custody and control.

According to the county’s website, the position has a salary range of $37,180 to $54,596 and has the following minimum requirements.

  • High school diploma or must have a GED.
  • Must be at least 21 years old. (will increase to 18 if the law passes)
  • Clear criminal history, must possess a valid SC driver’s license with no prior DUI or DUS convictions within the last five years.
  • The results of all pre-employment tests and interviews must meet the standards.
  • Work history must be satisfactory.
  • Must pass a pre-employment background check, drug test, and medical exam, the results of which show you are able to perform all of the essential functions of the job you are applying for, with reasonable accommodations .
  • Must pass required physical and background check prior to employment.

Thompson also said that if they could recruit more employees, current employees would not have to work mandatory overtime to keep the detention center running as normal.

“We were able to make sure that we are safe, our detainees are safe,” he said. “And by the same token, which is so very important, our people are safe, but we need more people to be able to make it work as it should.”

For more information and to apply, you can go to the jobs page on the Horry County Government website.