The General Assembly?s Legislative Audit Council has released its report on the S.C. Department of Corrections.
The audit found no major problems with how inmates are treated, and no major problems in the way prison administrators handled a hostage situation three years ago.
Agency Director John Ozmint says he’s pleased with the report, which he says confirms again that the employees of SCDC are doing a great job under difficult circumstances.
“Even the report points out,” said Ozmint, “that under dire budget circumstances we continue to reduce escapes, and we continue to reduce assaults.” “So the public is safer than it was seven years ago. Our recidivism rate remains below the national average.”
Ozmint says the investigation was thorough. “We feel like we’ve been to the proctologist and gotten a clean report,” he said.
Democratic Senator Phil Leventis of Sumter led the way in calling for the audit, asking for the Governor a few times to remove Ozmint, saying that he is a political appointee who should be replaced with a qualified administrator.
The latest complaint from Leventis is that the department has lost some important civil cases, which he says shows that problems do exist.
“He(Ozmint) has a gentleman working for him who has been found culpable in two civil suits of misusing his position with the department,” said Leventis, “who went outside his authority to harm employees, get them fired. That man is still working for the Department and has two more suits against him for the same thing.”
Leventis says juries awarded two prison wardens almost $900,000 and a federal appeals court has upheld one of the verdicts after a senior Department official wrongfully terminated them.
Ozmint says Leventis just wants revenge after he fired two of the senator’s friends from the department.
Leventis claimed more than 1,000 claims were filed against the agency. Leventis says the claims cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars and $1.5 million to defend them.
The report did find that Corrections Department attorney fees have increased since 2001 from $36,000 to $408,000. Prepaid legal defense coverage had also increased from $15,000 to $500,000.
The prison agency responded that it is already in compliance with nine of the audit’s 19 recommendations. One of the four it indicates it does not hope to comply with is the selling of the director’s house near Columbia.
Leventis argues that other states have sold the houses of corrections directors. He says the one in South Carolina is a 4200 square-foot home complete with servants who are prison inmates who work there.