Keeping the South Carolina Department of Corrections "On the Road"

By Cotton, Rosalyn | Corrections Forum, September/October 2003 | Go to article overview

Keeping the South Carolina Department of Corrections "On the Road"


Cotton, Rosalyn, Corrections Forum


The South Carolina Department of Corrections is comprised of 31 prisons that are spread throughout the state of South Carolina. In order to support the operation of these facilities, vehicles ranging from passenger cars to tractor-trailer trucks must be on the road daily. The Transportation Branch, operated by Department of Corrections employees, is responsible for keeping these vehicles safe and mechanically sound as they travel the states highways. And, they travel an average of 14,000,000 miles per year.

The Transportation Branch is located in what is known as the Headquarters Complex of the Department of Corrections on Broad River Road in Columbia. This area consists of the vehicle maintenance shop, the heavy equipment/diesel shop, a paint and body shop, and the gasoline station. This is where the approximately 1,000 vehicles are maintained and repaired. Anything that has a gasoline or diesel powered engine comes to the Transportation Branch when it is in need of repair. This includes farm tractors, heavy equipment such as bulldozers, motor graders, and backhoes used by construction/maintenance, passenger cars, vans and buses used to transport inmates, and eighteen wheel tractor/trailer rigs used to transport supplies, and emergency generators used to provide electricity during power outages. In addition to on site repairs, the Transportation Branch maintains two wreckers in Columbia, one a rollback and one large enough to rescue the agency's buses and tractors that suffer mechanical problems. Fuel costs average $1.2 million dollars per year to operate the vehicle fleet and equipment.

The vehicle maintenance shop is operated by a small administrative staff who process the approximately 350 work orders which are received each month, eight staff mechanics and supervisors, and 12-15 inmate workers. 70% of all Agency vehicle maintenance is performed by this staff. Because it is not cost effective to transport every vehicle to the Columbia area for routine maintenance such as oil changes or minor brake work, the remaining 30% of the required routine maintenance on the agency's vehicles is performed by outside vendors. Vehicle maintenance costs $1.1 million per year.

In addition to the centrally located facility, a small satellite shop is maintained in the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. This shop handles some minor repairs, but mostly routine maintenance for vehicles assigned to Lee, Wateree River, Turbeville, Evans Correctional Institutions and Palmer Pre-Release Center which are located in the eastern part of the state. This shop is also home to one of the rollback wreckers that is sometimes required when a vehicle breaks down in transit in that area.

The auto body shop located adjacent to the vehicle maintenance shop has the capability to repair and repaint vehicles much the same as any body shop located in the community. …

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