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South Carolina

South Carolina’s correctional population nearly tripled during the past 25 years and was projected to grow by another 3,200 inmates by 2014 prior to a major overhaul enacted in 2010.i Since 1983, state spending on prisons increased by more than 500 percent to $394 million.ii

In 2010, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford signed a comprehensive overhaul of state sentencing and corrections policy that passed the Legislature nearly unanimously. The bill was based on approaches that research indicates will both save money and reduce crime.

The package diverts certain low-risk, nonviolent offenders from prison to community-based programs so space is available in prison for violent and dangerous criminals to serve longer sentences. In fact, the legislation reclassifies 22 previously nonviolent offenses, many of which can result in death, as violent. The package is estimated to save the $350 million, the cost of building a new prison which would otherwise be necessary.iii Key provisions of the legislation: 1) authorize the use of risk and needs assessments of offenders to better allocate community supervision resources; 2) remove barriers to inmates successfully reentering society; and 3) provide incentives for probationers and parolees to stay drug- and crime-free.

Conservatives played a major role in championing this overhaul. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Prison Fellowship Vice President Pat Nolan said in a piece supporting the reforms: “About half of South Carolina’s prison population is being held for nonviolent offenses… Such low-level violations, as well as certain nonviolent drug-related crimes, can be punished in other ways that aren’t as expensive as prison. We build prisons for people we’re afraid of. Yet South Carolina has filled them with people we’re just mad at.”iv

Governor Sanford said the law was “smart on crime,” and that it strikes the right balance and it’s good for the taxpayers.v

Similarly, State Senator George E. “Chip” Campsen III (R), a member of the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission that developed the overhaul proposal, noted: “This approach is soft on the taxpayer and smart on crime. It is soft on the taxpayer because it will reduce the need to build more prisons. It is smart on crime because community-based alternatives such as restitution and drug courts entail more accountability and have been proven to reduce recidivism.”vi

Raising the age is conservative reform

Right on Crime | April 11, 2018
This article by Right on Crime signatory and director of the National Juvenile Justice Prosecution Center, Susan Broderick, originally appeared in The Post and Courier April 6th 2018. In…

How Jim DeMint wants SC lawmakers to redefine ‘tough on crime’

Right on Crime | March 2, 2018
This article by former Former South Carolina Senator and Right on Crime Signatory, Jim DeMint, originally appeared in The State, March 2nd, 2018.   The core of conservatism is the…

After CPAC: The Truth About Criminal Justice Reform, Part 2

Michael Haugen | March 11, 2016
Note: This is the second in a series of three articles that counter comments made by Wisconsin sheriff David Clarke during a panel discussion on criminal justice reform at…

Lessons From The States: Federal Criminal Justice Reform

Michael Haugen | October 27, 2015
In a new column published today in Rolling Stone, Iowa senator Chuck Grassley stated, when asked how he came around to advocating reform to the federal prison system, that…

Gelb and Prins: A “Prison Composition Index” Is A More Holistic Approach For Gauging Reform Success

Michael Haugen | June 24, 2015
In a new column published yesterday in the Washington Times, Adam Gelb and Craig Prins, of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project, state that with 40 years’ worth of evidence…

The Pelican Institute on how to reduce Louisiana’s prison population

Right on Crime | October 24, 2013
Louisiana leads the world in the number of people it imprisons, but the Pelican Institute, along with Texas Public Policy Foundation, have developed model legislation to remedy this problem.…

Fox News: “Conservatives join push to roll back mandatory prison sentences”

Right on Crime | September 30, 2013
Following Marc Levin’s testimony before the U.S. Judiciary Committee, this Fox News story features Right on Crime, noting that “The project has since been part of recent, successful efforts…

Norquist-Gleason: Holder follows GOP lead in easing harsh drug laws

Right on Crime | September 27, 2013
ROC signatory Grover Norquist co-authors this Reuters op-ed with Patrick Gleason, in which they further discuss how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is late to the party regarding criminal…

NPR Weekend Edition Saturday: “What’s Wrong With Mandatory Sentencing?”

Right on Crime | August 17, 2013
Marc Levin: “[there] are better ways to [hold offenders accountable] than mandatory minimums, particularly when it comes to non-violent offenders. And we think that the attorney general is a…

Right on Crime in United Liberty

Right on Crime | August 13, 2013
Marc Levin: “It’s good to see the Administration following the lead of conservative states such as Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia that have proven it’s possible to reduce crime…

Free Beacon: Taking On Crime

Right on Crime | April 23, 2013
Excerpt from The Washington Free Beacon, originally published April 23, 2013 by Andrew Evans Texas faced a choice in 2007: spend billions on new prisons to house its convicts…

Two Smart on Crime States Post Results

Right on Crime | February 8, 2013
Taxpayers in Pennsylvania are footing the bill for 454 fewer inmates this month than they were a year ago, while South Carolina’s citizens are paying for 2,700 fewer inmates.…
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