Can offenders under house arrest in the Carolina's evacuate Hurricane Florence?
Yes, they must make sure their ankle bracelet is charged before the storm.
William Holmes- North Carolina Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer
Jerry Higgins- North Carolina Department of Public Safety- Communications Officer/Adult Correction
Peter O'Boyle- South Carolina Department of Probation Parole and Pardon Services Public Information Director
Dexter Lee- South Carolina Department of Corrections Interim Communications Director
Gregory Carter- Virginia Department of Corrections Public Information Officer
Nathan DeVault- American Red Cross- National Capital Region-Director of Communications
In lieu of traditional incarceration, many U.S. inmates are serving time at home. Offenders are accountable to their parole or probation officer, for every hour of the day, but what happens when the Governor declares a emergency evacuation or state of disaster?
Are inmates under house arrest allowed to evacuate or check into an emergency shelter?
In South Carolina, the options are limited: they are barred from emergency shelters.
According to Peter O'Boyle, a spokesperson for South Carolina's Probation Parole and Pardons Department, offenders will be faced with few options: shelter in place, shelter with family, check into the nearest jail or find a homeless shelter.
"The only people we have on house arrest per-se are about 800 sex offenders," O'Boyle said. "We deal with homeless sex offenders all the time, so we know which shelters accept sex offenders. Most of the larger urban areas have at least one."
For all options one thing remains true: make sure your ankle monitor is charged.
"If it runs out of power of course we can't track them," O'Boyle said. "So they're told we’ll come looking for them in that case."
In North Carolina, some emergency shelters accept offenders on house arrest.
"People on house arrest can go to any shelter. They have ankle bracelets on and continue to be monitored," William Holmes, a spokesperson for North Carolina's Department of Public Safety said. "Sex offenders must declare that they have been arrested when they register at a shelter and then meet with the manager and local law enforcement before being assigned to a shelter."
Electronically monitored offenders in North Carolina and Virginia are able to evacuate to family homes or authorized evacuation shelters as long as the probation/parole officer has been notified and has given pre-approval. Community officers are prepped to know which shelters accept offenders.
So we can verify, inmates under house arrest are allowed to evacuate. In North Carolina and Virginia, there are emergency shelters that allow both electronically monitored offenders and sex offenders. In South Carolina, they're barred from emergency shelters.
People who already served time for sex offenses (no longer on parole or probation), but are still on the sex offender registry, are allowed to go to a Red Cross shelter.
"The Red Cross does not automatically deny admission to our shelters based upon a person's status as a registered sexual offender," Nathan DeVault, Director of Communications for the National Capital Region said. "In many areas, local or state law requires registered offenders to be housed in a facility operated by local law enforcement. In that case, the local or state legal requirements must be followed. In jurisdictions where there is no such law, the Red Cross shelter staff will coordinate with the local police or sheriff’s department."
Right now, the ACLU is alleging some state prisons along the East Coast are not evacuating inmates.
At this time, the our researchers could only verify facilities that have evacuated.
Palmer Pre Release Center, a level one minimum custody prison in South Carolina was evacuated. The 266 inmates assigned to Palmer were moved to Turbeville, "a more secure prison," according to Dexter Lee, South Carolina Department of Corrections' Interim Communications Director.
Lee would not comment on whether other coastal prisons are evacuating.
"Due to security reasons we do not announce advanced inmate movements," Lee said.
North Carolina's prison system said it has evacuated some facilities, but remains vague on details.
"The N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Prisons has evacuated offenders and staff from facilities deemed most adversely affected by Hurricane Florence," Jerry Higgins, a spokesperson for the agency said. "We cannot provide the list of the facilities at this time as evacuations are ongoing and providing that information is considered a security risk. Once everyone has been moved, we may provide that list."
Virginia voluntarily evacuated Indian Creek Correctional Center, which sits along the coast and is prone to flooding.
Nearly 960 offenders were transported to Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia, according to Gregory Carter, Virginia Department of Corrections spokesperson.
Hanesville and St. Brides, which house about 940 and 1,180 inmates respectively, were not evacuated.