The S.C. Sentencing Reform Commission released its final report to state lawmakers last week. According to the Commission, the recommendations will make South Carolina safer while saving millions of dollars.
The Commission is led by state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville. The report appears to have the same old get tough on criminals rhetoric. According to WBTW New 13:
The most important issue for those here in this state is that we’re going to keep the citizens in South Carolina safe, and that’s why you have a focus on violent crimes and those that have victims,” Malloy said. “And so those crimes we are very tough on.
The report recommends adding 24 additional crimes to the list of “violent” crimes. It also recommends increased penalties for violent repeat offenders. By my calculations, if we label more criminal acts violent and impose longer sentences on violent criminals, we will need more prisons. That sounds about right.
The problem with this is that the prison population is currently made up of about one-half non-violent offenders. Some, if not most, of these non-violent offenders are serving mandatory minimum prison sentences. According to the report:
49 percent of state prison inmates are serving time for non-violent offenses, such as driving under suspension, shoplifting or forgery. If the state doesn’t make changes, the state will soon need another prison, which would cost more than $317 million to build and add more than $141 million every year to the cost of running the Department of Corrections.
Shoplifting? DUS? How about the war on drug addicted people? They are usually serving mandatory minimum sentences.
The report was unanimous and the bipartisan commission hopes the legislature will adopt the recommendations. Looks like we will be getting a new prison.