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Midlands Chaplain calling for more volunteers, pastors inside SC prisons

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COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) --- Chaplain Ronnie Hunter is speaking out after a deadly riot at Lee Correctional Institutional.

Hunter said one of the best ways to prevent violence in prisons like that is to go behind bars and for the last 15 years he's done just that as part of a prison ministry program. "Now is the time for us to kind of brainstorm and see how we can get more people to go inside to carry hope to these guys," Hunter said. "All of those guys are not there forever some of those guys are going to come home they need to come home changed if they come home changed they could change the families."

Right now, prison officials said a shortage of correctional officers is limiting the number of resources and volunteers in state prisons. "Without the adequate resources, without the officers to cover what's being thrown over the fence and stuff like that,” Hunter said. “Their safety is at stake."

This week, Governor Henry McMaster signed an executive order to approve additional funding to the corrections department. It increases pay for some officers and could help fill more than 600 open positions. "It is clear that we must take action,” McMaster said. "So, I have the authority to do it, and it's time, and I am doing it."

Ronnie Hunter said the governor's move is a step in the right direction but one that calls for more chaplains, pastors, and volunteers to get involved. "I know that they are inmates, I know they have done something to be there, they are there to be corrected,” Hunter said. “But they are still people, and they still have a way that they should be treated."

The governor's order would also allow the DOC to expedite purchases for netting around prisons that stop contraband from being thrown over the walls.

Right now the starting pay for correctional officers is around $34,000. That's up roughly $7,000 from 2014.

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