A handful of officials including two state senators, two representatives and others met in Columbia Wednesday to consider consolidating the prison system and the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole services.
Corrections Director Jon Ozmint serves on that committee along with administration from the probation and parole agency. Ozmint says combining the two agencies would save up to six million dollars over a period of years and would lead to more continuity in service. He also says the majority of states have already merged those agencies.
But Berkeley County Democrat Joe Jefferson, who also serves on the committee, is among the members of the South Carolina House who have opposed the consolidation. He is outspoken about his opposition and says budget cuts have already drastically sliced the number of employees at the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole and that further reducing the probation and parole staff will not help services.
South Carolina Probation, Parole and Pardon Services spokesman Peter O’Boyle says the study committee includes voices from all sides of the issue and should produce a fair report.
I think everybody feels that it’s a complicated issue and it needs to be studied in depth and that’s what this committee is going to do. We’re a cabinet agency and whatever the governor wants to do in the way of supporting a merger, then we certainly support that.
Republican Senator Mike Fair of Greenville chairs the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee. He put forth the proposal this legislative year. Fair says he expects the committee to meet two more times by early December and he will then submit a report to state lawmakers in January.