The state Senate passed final reading of the prison sentencing reform bill Tuesday. The package now goes to the House. The legislation has been led by Darlington County Democrat Gerald Malloy and Lexington County Republican Jake Knotts.
Just before passage, Malloy told his colleagues that the measure is a way of saving the state money, to avoid the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction of one or more new prisons. He says it will also increase public safety. Malloy says the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act would put more non-violent offenders on house arrest, but would add 22 crimes to the list of violent crimes.
(Malloy on sentencing reform MP3 3:54)
Malloy on sentencing reform
Malloy says the bill will change the fee for participation in drug courts from $100 to $150, to raise an extra $733,000 for the operation of the specialty courts. And he says the bill clears the way for crimes which can be characterized as felonies to be handled by the federal court system.
The bill was amended before final reading in the Senate, after Orangeburg Democrat Brad Hutto brought up a point concerning firearms. He said the bill originally specified that former convicts guilty of crimes classified as violent could not own guns, even if they didn’t purchase them but already owned them, and even if they had not used a gun or any weapon during their crime. Hutto asserted that the measure, without modification, would violate the Second Amendment
Hutto and bill co-writer Jake Knotts of Lexington County were at odds over the amendment until they realized that they were both trying to make the same point. A compromise amendment was created with federal gun laws in mind. It was passed along with the bill.