One of the restructuring measures sought by the governor at the end of the legislative session involved the merging of the South Carolina Department of Corrections with the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole (PPP).
According the Sen. Mike Fair, chair of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee “That idea, as envisioned by Judge Byars…is going to be the greatest step towards rehabilitation that South Carolina has ever taken.”
That is in part, says Fair, because of the success Byars had with a similar concept when he led the Department of Juvenile Justice. Fair says other states have been able to merge the two departments:
I’m talking about having under one roof (with) the entire Department of Corrections but it would be broken out into institutional corrections — and that would be men and women that are serving time behind the walls– and community corrections, an enhanced version of what three-P’s does now with the same people, but it would be expanded to be more people out in the communities.
This will bring ratios down for case workers, says Fair so that they can work closely with non-violent offenders who are sentenced to stay in their homes, work and undergo counseling and training.
The chances for rehabilitation are enhanced exponentially,” says Fair.
Gov. Haley is hoping that the chances for saving money will increase exponentially as well. This plan was one of four she called the Legislature back in to consider after the regular session ended. The SC Supreme Court kept that from happening and the Senate got to none of the restructuring bills in the Sine Die extended session.
The merger did not make it to floor debate by the end of the session, though, which prompted the governor to add it to her list of measures to get passed.
“But we have run into some snags,” Fair says, “but it gives us more time to hammer out a more refined program.”
The “snags” in the planning, he says, were:
“Misunderstandings I think. One of the things that was going on in the midst of everything was that we have a new governor, putting her people in,” he explains. Changeovers meant that people in higher levels of leadership have to get used to the idea of working as one agency.
I don’t believe Ms.Thomas (Kela Thomas, new director of PPP), is all the way there on consolidation. But what I am pretty sure is, is the governor is all the way there, so I am confident that we are going to have our institutional corrections and our community corrections. And I would suspect that it would be the same personnel in leadership positions in each and every place.
Judge William Byers suffered a stroke last week, but is recovering and expected to return to his post.