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South Carolina TV Crew Tails Warden Driving Across State for Free

South Carolina's prison towns might be great places to work, but apparently, the wardens wouldn't want to live there.

A TV news crew discovered that, six months after South Carolina's Department of Corrections was caught by a state watchdog spending $100,000 annually on giving prison wardens a free ride, nothing has changed.

As the TV crew tracked him, Tyger River Warden Tim Riley got into his state-issued Chevy one morning in July 2012, rolled out of his driveway in Columbia, and trekked 71 miles across six counties to his office at the prison. He's been doing it every day for the past five years, costing taxpayers more than $32,000 just by himself, according to a January 2012 report from South Carolina's Inspector General's Office on potential waste within the state's prison system.

Riley is one of just 28 SCDOC wardens—many of whom live in Columbia, near DOC headquarters, but travel to prisons across the state—to have been afforded a car and gas card.

"For you to tell me now, six months later, that nothing's changed, is concerning and upsetting to me," said Jim Martin, the now-retired inspector general who wrote the report.

Carl Newsom, a SCDOC spokesman, tried to explain that wardens must "be able to respond very quickly because a situation at a prison can get nasty very quickly and it could be a matter of life and death."

But, according to Martin, that's nonsense. Not only does Riley live one hour and 10 minutes away —which isn't "quick" by any standard—but there's rarely a reason for Riley to even be at the prison.

"There have only been two disturbances in five years at Tyger River that necessitated the warden actually making that trip in an emergency situation," he said. In case of a real emergency, according to Martin, wardens can ride with state troopers or ride in a helicopter, either of which saves taxpayers on high fuel prices.


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