SC eyes Puerto Rico to fill prison vacancies amid staffing crisis

The South Carolina DOC has been hiring COs across its 21 facilities since January, but about 655 positions remain unfilled

By Corrections1 Staff

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Officials in South Carolina are turning to Puerto Rico to help fill vacancies in prisons amid the state’s staffing crisis.

The Post and Courier reports that although the South Carolina DOC has been hiring COs across its 21 facilities since January, about 26 percent of those positions remain unfilled, which translates to 655 openings.

"We're looking everywhere — literally everywhere. We will look wherever we can to get people to come and work," said Bryan Stirling, director of the S.C. Department of Corrections. "And we are always looking because of the vacancy issues."

Stirling said the idea to recruit people from the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico came to him when he was researching states with high unemployment rates. Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate hovers above 10 percent. He said they’ll take anyone who can speak English and is willing to move to South Carolina.

Stirling said that those who have some kind of access to the internet can apply online, undergo a background check and go through the interview process via Skype. The DOC plans to pay for moving expenses. 

The department has already made moves to try to combat the staffing crisis. All COs in the state make at least $31,000 and are paid overtime and bonuses, but the staffing troubles continue.

Stirling said the department plans to advertise on the island through billboards, TV commercials and radio advertisements.

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