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March 26, 2010

Significant sentencing reform moving forward in South Carolina

As detailed in this local story, which is headlined "Sentencing reform passes: Bill tries to free up room for the dangerous," significant proposed changes to South Carolina's sentencing laws seem to be close to becoming a reality. Here are the details:

A bill designed to reduce the number of people going to jail in South Carolina for minor offenses and let more people out on parole received key approval Thursday.

The bill approved by the Senate is expected to save taxpayers money while providing improved oversight and training of nonviolent offenders. Proponents said it will ensure there's prison space for high-risk, violent criminals and that they'll serve longer prison terms. "This is a balanced bill that is tough on crime while providing alternative sentencing for those who deserve it," said Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, chairman of a commission that spent more than a year reviewing sentencing policies.

People convicted of nonviolent crimes account for nearly half of the state's 25,000 inmates, and nearly one in five inmates are imprisoned for drug crimes, according to the commission's February report.

Malloy, an attorney, said the bipartisan bill reforms a hodgepodge of laws enacted in recent decades, often as knee-jerk reactions to a particular local crime. Inmates are most commonly in prison on drug charges, burglary, check fraud and driving under suspension, in that order, he said. Providing education and supervision, rather than just throwing low-level offenders in prison, can "turn them from being a tax burden to a taxpayer," Malloy said.

Legislators have embraced the long-overdue changes largely because of the state's budget crunch, he said, noting that incarcerating someone costs $14,500 a year, compared to roughly $2,000 for supervised probation.

The state Corrections Department has been allowed to run a deficit for three consecutive years, as officials balked at the idea of releasing inmates early to make up for budget cuts. South Carolina's inmate population and its cost to taxpayers have soared since 1983, from less than 9,200 costing the state $64 million, to 25,000 costing $394 million. If trends continue, there will be 3,200 more inmates in five years, costing an extra $141 million to house and feed them, and several hundred million more for construction of new prisons, the report said.

March 26, 2010 at 11:57 AM | Permalink


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Well written. Nice Bill Indeed! It is a good idea to release the inmates who was accused for nonviolent crimes. But before releasing them it is better to warn and motivate them not to repeat the crimes. Because there is a chance of repeating the crimes keeping this bill in mind.

US Citizen

Posted by: SC DMV Practice Tests | May 7, 2010 6:31:14 AM

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