As Hurricane Florence looms over the East Coast, a debate is raging about whether prisons in the storm’s path should be evacuated.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued mandatory evacuation orders to eight counties on Monday.

“We know the evacuation order I’m issuing will be inconvenient,” McMaster said. “But we’re not going to gamble with the lives of the people of South Carolina. Not a one.”

However, the Ridgeland Correctional Institution, located in Jasper County, which is included in the governor's mandatory evacuation order, will not be evacuating its inmates, The State reports.

“Right now, we’re not in the process of moving inmates,” spokesman Dexter Lee said. “In the past, it’s been safer to leave them there.”

On Tuesday, McMaster lifted the evacuation order for Jasper and two other counties due to changes in the storm’s path.

The 650 prisoners in MacDougall Correctional Institution will stay put even though the evacuation order in that area is still valid. South Carolina has not evacuated a prison since MacDougall was emptied ahead of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, according to Post and Courier.

Three jails in Virginia have also decided to keep prisoners in their cells, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

While prisoners at Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia, have been moved to another prison 100 miles away, three other institutions aren’t budging. The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office ordered enough food and medical supplies to last two weeks along with 3,200 gallons of fuel to Norfolk's jail. The facility plans to use pumps to get rid of floodwater and printed out medical records in case of a power outage.

Norfolk's jail is in its state's evacuation area, and its officials will receive hotel accommodations courtesy of Virginia's taxpayers.

Portsmouth, Virginia's jail will increase staff presence ahead of the storm. It plans to move inmates from an offsite work center into the jail. Extra freezers were brought in to keep food fresh, and the prison has a generator in case the power goes out.

Although Virginia and South Carolina corrections officials appear to be unbothered by the coming "storm of a generation," Vice points out, prisoners have been left in subpar conditions after past storms.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, prisoners dealt with food shortages, lack of clean water and flooded sewers. Hundreds of inmates left at a New Orleans prison during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were not evacuated until the water reached chest level, and a number went missing. 

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