After a yearlong study of how to improve crime sentencing in South Carolina, lawmakers teamed up to release a list of reforms, including how to deal with parolees who break the law again. Commission Chair Senator Gerald Malloy, a Darlington Democrat, says their recommendations include risk assessments of parolees, a hot-button issue this week as a Charleston deputy was shot repeatedly by a recently-paroled repeat offender.
Malloy says, “This risk accessment are the issues that will come right into the face of this issue. You’re going to be able to better determine the criminogenic aspects of every individual that comes out. The anti-social issues that they would end up having.”
Lexington Senator Jake Knotts, formerly a law enforcent officer, served on the commission. He says parole issues are at the top of his list: “To put qualifications on the Department of Pardon, Probation and Parole director, and also the members -to make sure that people had a background in Probation, Pardon and Parole or educational requirements to be the head of the department of Pardon, Probation and Parole. Right now, there’s no requirements on it.”
Knotts and fellow lawmakers on the commission agree that recidivism and need for rehabilitation is a major problem. “We’re tired of having a revolving door at the Department of Corrections. When you go to the Department of Corrections, we want to see and make sure that you receive some type of help –and punishment where punishment is needed for the crime you did–but also to receive the help so that you can go back into society and be a productive person,” says Knotts.
Malloy says that the commission of lawmakers, judges and corrections officials made recommendations in four areas: the revolving door, recidivism problem, effective sentencing options, use of tax dollars, and ensuring violent offenders stay in prison. Malloy says that as early as next week, that he, Knotts and Charleston Republican Chip Campsen will introduce an omnibus sentencing reform bill in the Senate.
Malloy says the state needs to ensure that there are always enough slots in prison for violent offenders. The commission recommends that what they call a “driver of prison growth” is the number of incarcerated nonviolent criminals.
“Maybe as high as 49 percentof those that are incarcerated for non-violent crime. There’s a debt to society, but we think it’s better -there’s better ways of doing it, than to end up and have the citizens of SC to pay for their bed space as opposed to them paying their own debt to society and to stop becoming tax burdens, and become tax payers,” says Malloy.
In South Carolina, one in 38 adults are under some form of correctional control.