COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Neighbors living near a care facility that treats convicted sex offenders after they have served their time say the building is too close to a youth recreation center.
Four years ago, the privately-owned Columbia Regional Care Center on Farrow Road became home to 44 violent sexual predators.
On Monday night, many residents living in nearby neighborhoods just found that out.
The Department of Mental Health says the building was its last option. The Broad River Correctional Facility ran out of room and they had to be put somewhere else.
“We felt confident going forward,” DMH’s Mark Brinkley said. “Now, in hindsight, should we have called a community meeting to let them know that six or seven individuals were going over there? It might have solved some problems it might have created others, I don’t know.”
Brinkley says they’re waiting for the green light from the Budget and Control Board to renovate part of Broad River to make room for 90 residents.
“We’ve been talking to DOC since 2000 about possibly looking at growth space — space to grow the program because we knew from the get go it was going to keep growing,” Brinkley said
However, at the current growth rate, DMH projects it will outgrow Broad River again in just a couple years.
Many neighbors in the area are looking for DMH to come up with a better plan to guarantee the safety of the people of Columbia. It was a sentiment shared by many community leaders such as Juliette Greenlee.
“Before I leave for my grandchildren, I would like to have them gone. And if it takes noise or if it takes us marching — I’ve done that too — let’s organize and get it done,” Greenlee said.
But DMH tried to assure the audience the facility is secure and there hasn’t been one escapee or problem.
“Most are over 50 year old and have a lot of medical issues. They’re not teenagers, they’re not going to be scaling barbed wire fences or running through the woods. That aside, I’m not discounting people’s fear and again, we have the same goal they have which is to get them back to corrections,” Brinkley said.
It costs more than $100,000 per resident per year to house them at the facility. DMH projects a savings of $30,000 per resident per year if they move to a state-run correctional facility.
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