Recruiting to begin in Puerto Rico for SC Department of Corrections

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A major void in the amount of front-line officers at South Carolina prisons brings a security risk.

Just this week a South Carolina inmate was killed inside a maximum security prison.

So now, the Department of Corrections is getting creative. The department will advertise in Puerto Rico, hoping any unemployed people in the storm-ravaged community will need a job enough to consider the move.

Midlands resident, Jerry Montalvo has family in Puerto Rico. Images from the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria still haunt his mind this Thanksgiving.

"They have electricity one day. They have water one day, but they can't have both," Montalvo said. "Folks need to feed their families, provide for their families, even create something for the future. And I think that if South Carolina gives an opportunity and reaches out to Puerto Ricans, they'll take the opportunity."

Montalvo feels Puerto Ricans could help fill the void at the Department of Corrections, especially if they're paid relocating expenses, and have help transitioning to life here.

That's what Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling says would happen.

"We're constantly looking at how to recruit folks," Stirling said. "We looked at other states and other areas, and we saw that Puerto Rico had a need and quite frankly a high unemployment rate and knew that folks there are hurting and we have a need."

Without 655 positions on the front-line filled, Stirling says prisons aren't as safe as they should be.

"The more officers we have, the safer it is inside our institution, the safer it is for our folks working inside the institutions, you know. And also, it allows us to do programming," Stirling said.

The department will start advertising on billboards in Puerto Rico that officers would be paid between 35 and $36,000 plus overtime.

"I'm not sure they'll fill all the vacancies, but I'm sure there will be a lot of interest in that," Jerry Montalvo said.

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