SC prison chief receives national award for agency turnaround
The South Carolina prison director won a national award for turning around an agency that was near the bottom of the county in funding, salaries and rates of inmates returning to prison.
Prison Service Director Bryan Stirling was honored on Saturday by the Correctional Leaders Association for the changes that have taken place in South Carolina prisons during his eight years of leadership.
Stirling took over an agency where officers’ starting salaries were around $ 26,000, funding was in the country’s last five states, inmates returned to jail at one of the highest rates in the country and a New in three prison wardens resigned within two years of hiring and training, wrote former corrections director Jon Ozmint, nominating Stirling for the award.
Starting salaries are now around $ 36,000 before any chance to earn overtime and South Carolina has moved up to the top of the states in recidivism rates.
Stirling also has the backing of Democrats and Republicans who backed his nomination for the Tom Clements Innovation and Achievement Award, named after the director of Colorado prisons killed by a former inmate in 2013.
âBryan has the confidence of Statehouse leaders across party lines. He leveraged that trust to create respect and admiration “for those who work in state prisons, Democratic Senator Dick Harpootlian wrote.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster cited Stirling’s endless efforts to gain federal permission to jam cell phone signals in prison to prevent inmates from continuing to organize inside criminal activity and efforts to prevent smuggling from entering jail by setting up nets so that packages cannot be thrown over fences in prison yards.
âSouth Carolina is a safer place thanks to the strong leadership and collaborative efforts of Director Stirling,â McMaster wrote.
Stirling’s eight years had problems. There was a wave of inmates killing other inmates early in his tenure and in 2018, the deadliest U.S. prison riot in 25 years saw seven inmates killed at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville.
Stirling blamed contraband cell phones for the gang battle in the territory. He stepped up efforts to keep phones out of prisons and got permission to send gang leaders to out-of-state prisons where they could no longer lead their groups.
âIf Bryan or (Corrections) makes a mistake, he’ll admit it and go ahead and fix it. That’s the real key to Bryan’s success: character and transparency, âsaid Harpootlian.
Stirling has retained the trust of lawmakers, who have entrusted him with nearly $ 100 million to carry out security updates and improvements to prison buildings in areas such as air conditioning as well as computer tablets that well-behaved inmates can use to watch movies or call their families, which helps their quality of life too, depending on his appointment.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.