frequently asked questions (faqs)

General SCDC Operations
Life Within Prison
Inmate Population Statistics
General SCDC Operations
1.  What are the statutory responsibilities of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC)?
SCDC is the state adult prison system in South Carolina, responsible for the housing, feeding, and security of adult offenders, aged 17 and above, who were sentenced by the courts to a period of incarceration exceeding three months. By statute or cooperative agreements, SCDC also houses these inmates: juveniles sentenced as adults; county safekeepers (death-row and pre-trial offenders posing high risks in local jails); Interstate Corrections Compact inmates, and pre-sentence evaluation offenders under the Youthful Offender Act, Section 5B. Probation, parole and other community supervision programs are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (DPPPS). Juveniles are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). On April 12, 2021 SCDC's jurisdiction count totaled 15,316 inmates, housed in 21 facilities, operated by approximately 4,500 employees.

2.  What is the incarceration rate in South Carolina?
According to the Southern Legislative Conference (Adult Corrections Systems 2017 report), South Carolina has an incarceration rate of 397.84 state inmates per 100,000 residents and is ranked 7th in the South.

3.  What are SCDC's total and per inmate operational costs?
In Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018), SCDC expended $427 million in state-appropriated funds, for a per inmate cost of $21,756 per year ($59.61 per day).

4.  How much does it cost to build a prison?
SCDC's recent capital improvements plan estimates construction costs by facility type, in 2018 dollars:
  • 1,500-bed medium security institution - $244 million ($162,700 per bed)
  • 500-bed maximum security institution - $121 million ($241,000 per bed)
  • 3,000-bed high-maximum security institution - $676 million ($226,000 per bed)

5.  What is SCDC's inmate-to-staff ratio?
On June 30, 2018:
  • Inmate-to-security employees ratio = 6.4:1 (security staff includes correctional officers and supervisory security positions)
  • Inmate-to-correctional-officer ratio = 10.2:1
  • Inmate-to-all-employees = 3.7:1

6.  How do I get the mailing address and phone numbers of SCDC prisons?
Please click on Institutions and select individual institutions as listed.
Or click Organization/Contacts to obtain a listing of phone numbers.

7.  What products or services are provided by SCDC Prison Industries (PI)?
SCDC prison industry products include apparel, case goods, dorm furniture, institutional bedding, janitorial supplies, metal furniture, modular panels, license plates, seating, and signs. Among prison industry services are framing, printing, reupholster, laundry, and tire re-treading. For further information, click on Prison Industries.

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Life Within Prison
1.  How does SCDC decide where an inmate is housed?
When an offender is admitted to SCDC, he/she is assessed at the Reception and Evaluation Center. The intake process collects data on the inmate's criminal and incarceration history, current offenses and sentences, medical status, and special program needs. This data is used to determine an inmate's likelihood to escape or commit acts of violence while in prison. According to each inmate's potential risk, an SCDC caseworker assigns her/him to a security level and a custody level.

This assessment and assignment process is commonly known as Inmate Classification System. Following their initial classification review at the Reception and Evaluation Center, inmates are subsequently reviewed every 12 months for security/custody changes, if appropriate. However, upon receiving new crime data or when an inmate commits an infraction, a case worker will initiate a re-classification review immediately, and adjust the inmate's security/custody status and institutional assignment accordingly.

SCDC has adopted a consistent Inmate Classification System in that all caseworkers apply the same set of criteria to all inmates. While the common set of classification criteria is computerized, a central state office within the Division of Classification and Inmate Records monitors all classification decisions.

2.  How do inmates spend their time in prison?
Inmates work, enroll in education/vocational training, and/or participate in rehabilitation programs unless they are physically unable or constrained under these circumstances - intake/transfer processing, lock up, and court hearings. Institutional work assignments range from ground maintenance and food preparation to prison industry production and services. Education/training programs include adult basic education, GED preparation to various vocation training. Examples of some rehabilitation programs are as follows: alcohol and drug addictions treatment, and sex offender counseling.

3.  How are money matters handled in prison?
SCDC prisons are cashless - inmates may not carry cash (possession of cash is a policy violation leading to disciplinary action). Visitors are prohibited from bringing cash to inmates. SCDC provides a central bank, Cooper Trust Fund, which maintains an automated account for each inmate, tracking deposits and transactions. An inmate and his/her families and friends can make deposits to his/her account. Inmates are issued identification cards that can be used as debit cards at SCDC institutional canteens for purchases of personal necessities and other items. For further information, click Cooper Trust Fund.

4.  Can inmates have visitors?
Inmates can have a maximum of 15 approved visitors - he/she should send to each of his/her prospective visitors the form: "Request for Visiting Privileges" (provided at Reception and Evaluation Center upon his/her arrival and available at all institutions once transferred from R&E). The visitor must have his/her request processed by SCDC's Central Visitation Center which takes approximately four weeks. Upon approval, it is the inmate's responsibility to advise the visitor that they have been approved and notify them of the days/times he/she is eligible for visits. The visitor may also contact the inmate's housing location to check on visiting hours and days. For details on visitation rules and procedures, click Inmate Visitation.

5.  Can inmates phone home or their friends?
Yes, inmates are allowed to make collect calls from inmate phones located in the institutions, but the calls are subject to restrictions and will be recorded and monitored. Inmate calls will be clearly identified and called parties have the option to accept or refuse a call, block all future calls from the inmate, or block all future calls from the SC Department of Corrections. Inmates admitted to SCDC will be issued a Personal Identification Number (PIN) within one week of their admission to enable them to place calls as allowed by the institutional schedule. Institutional telephone coordinators help inmates with these procedures. In order to accept collect calls, your phone account must be current with your local telephone company (not past due) and they must have a billing and collection agreement with the South Carolina Department of Corrections' inmate phone service provider. You must have a non-cordless phone with touch tone service (no rotary dial). Inmates are not allowed to call toll free numbers. A prepaid account can be established to allow calls to cells phones or phones where the local telephone company does not have a billing and collection agreement with the inmate phone service provider.

6.  Can inmates send or receive mail and packages?
Yes, inmates may send any quantity of mail provided he/she bears the cost of postage. He/she may receive mail and packages, which should be marked with this information: inmate's legal name, SCDC number, living unit/room/wing, full name of institution and its address. SCDC may limit incoming mail when there is reasonable belief that it poses security threat, or when it contains these unauthorized contents: unpaid publication, cash, stamps, unauthorized checks or money order, Polaroid pictures, pre-stamped or "no postage necessary" envelopes, musical/audible greeting cards, pre-paid phone cards, cash-on-delivery products, personal identification documents (such as driver's license, birth certificate), and financial statements. Link to our page for inmate mail and it's faq for details. Contact the Office of General Counsel (803-896-8508) with questions.

7.  Will inmates be rewarded for good behavior or work in prison?
Yes, South Carolina laws allow SCDC to award inmates with credits for good behavior and participation in work/educational programs. These credits can be applied towards an inmate's sentence(s) to establish an earlier release date, unless the inmate was sentenced under the Truth-in-Sentencing statute and must serve 85% of his/her sentence. Good time credits can be applied towards establishing sentence expiration date. Good time credits cannot be applied towards establishing parole (conditional release) eligibility. On the other hand, work/educational credits can be applied towards conditional or unconditional release criteria.

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Inmate Population Statistics
Numerous reports on current and jurisdictional population facts can be found at Statistical Reports. Found at this site are statistics on:
  • Count
  • Admissions
  • Releases
  • Distribution (Sex; Age; Sentence Length; etc.)
  • Most Serious Offenses