Every year thousands of former inmates from the Richland County Jail get dropped off in downtown Columbia.


Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Every year thousands of former inmates who have served their time in the Richland County Jail, that don't have a ride home, get dropped off at a bus station in downtown Columbia.

That's something doesn't sit well with businesses downtown and home owners, but that soon could change. A proposal passed a county council committee that would give former inmates a voucher for $30 and they could take a cab anywhere within city limits.

"In a typical month there may be 400 a month, or about 100 a week. Some months it could be as many as 600-700 it just depends on the season and how many people have been arrested," said Matt Kennell with City Center Partnership.

A Richland County Jail Committee met to discuss ways to make downtown safer by not dropping off former inmates near Main Street and the Vista.

"There are a lot of valid concerns with people on Main Street that are saying we are starting to bustle we are having some great things happening, let's look at doing a better job with this policy," said Councilman Seth Rose.

The policy was created years ago after a man was release from the jail, attempted to walk home and was hit and killed.

Rose chairs the committee and believes this proposal would fix the problem.

"We are simply trying to get that individual to where they want to go and maybe that can solve this problem," said Rose.

"Residents are concerned with having these people here and really nowhere to go, just wandering around," said Kennell.

Kennell is just one of many that work downtown that do not like the current system.

"That's thousands of people a year that are being dropped in one area and that's not good for downtown and its not good for these former detainees."

The plan is still in the works but it would give the former inmate a voucher for $30.

The city and county will split the costs for a cab to take them anywhere within city limits and its something that Kennell things is a good idea.

"It's more humanitarian, hopefully they can get to a place where they have services, a place to eat and its better for downtown because it doesn't concentrate all of these people in one area."

Council is now negotiating with several cab companies to see what will be the best cost effective way to spend tax dollars.

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