South Carolina’s top financial panel on Tuesday approved a plan to borrow $45 million to build a new facility that will house more than 180 individuals deemed “sexually violent predators.”
Members of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority signed off on a Department of Mental Health (DMH) proposal to issue bonds that would pay for the proposed nearly 100,000 square-foot Columbia facility.
The future unit would replace temporary housing the agency currently uses for its patients in the Sexually Violent Predator Program, which houses those sex offenders who have served their sentence but are deemed too dangerous to release back into the general population.
South Carolina began housing inmates in the SVP program in 1999. Nearly 300 inmates have gone through the program since it began. Of those, roughly 100 have either been rehabilitated or died in custody.
DMH officials say the current housing they use was always meant to be temporary and is running out of space as the population steadily expands. The agency said it expects the units will reach capacity by early next year. Legislators and the agency studied the issue before deciding to have a private contractor operate the facility once it opens. A proviso in last year’s budget authorized the agency to request bids.
The future site will be built at the former state Stevenson Correctional Institution prison, which Department of Corrections officials closed in 2012. The new facility would have 268 beds, but the agency said it could house up to 500 patients, if needed. DMH estimates the actual facility will cost $41 million, but is borrowing an additional $4.2 million to cover future lease payments on the site. The contractor that would operate on the site is not named in the documents.