South Carolina’s prison population has seen a decline after sentencing reforms passed in 2010, according to a recent report.
The Post and Courier reports that a legislative commission estimates the reforms saved the state $491 million from having to build new prison housing. Shorter incarceration times for non-violent offenders, opportunities for more paths to parole and a drop in the crime rate help drive down the number of individuals in state prisons across South Carolina to more than 20,700. The reduction in the incarceration helped lead to six prisons closures statewide.
In the late 2000s, South Carolina was one of a few of states to pass sentencing reforms for nonviolent offenders while increasing opportunities for parole. The state’s Sentencing Reform Oversight Commission received an update on the past six years on Monday.
A majority of the state’s prison population was non-violent offenders fourteen years ago. Now Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling says they make up 34 percent of South Carolina’s inmates in state custody.
However, the state’s recidivism rate remains stubbornly high, with about 23 percent of offenders back in state prisons within three years of release. The Corrections Department admits that is an increase from a year earlier, but says the overall rate has fallen since 2010.
Agency efforts to reduce the recidivism rate include incentives to better connect families with released offenders, and efforts by the Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) to help train offenders and provide jobs skills before they are released.