Sunday, February 28, 2010

South Carolina Looks to Decades Old Statute to Release Prisoners

The Charleston Post Courier has an interesting article today highlighting yet another state, South Carolina, that intends to solve some of their budget woes on the back of the corrections system.

In South Carolina, falling revenues and a series of tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature have bled more than $2 billion from the state budget.

Word that the state's latest cost-cutting plan included possibly dumping 3,000 prison inmates on the streets sent shivers through South Carolina last week. A little-known 1982 law gives the Corrections Department the authority to release prisoners early. The law created a supervised furlough program for non-violent offenders who are within six months of completing their sentences.

Releasing as many as 3,400 inmates would reduce spending by about $30 million and would mean closing up to four prisons and laying-off about 700 employees. State Senator Gerald Malloy said early release would be ill-advised and do nothing to improve a prison system that is an "utter failure."

Not everyone in the state is opposed to early release. In 2008, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency reviewed about a dozen studies of accelerated-release programs and found no significant difference in recidivism rates between inmates who left prison early and those who served their full sentences.

South Carolina joins a long list of states who are looking to corrections to solve their budget woes. This writer has chronicled the efforts of more than a dozen other states contemplating or implementing early release plans as a budget balancing mechanism. The list continues to grow.

To read the full article:

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