Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gov. Sanford: You Can Squeeze Blood from Turnip

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford understands that he does not have unlimited access to taxpayer dollars. He just doesn't know the best way to convey the situation to the citizens of South Carolina. Remincent of the famous baseball linguist Yogi Berra, Sanford recently told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, "You can only squeeze so much blood from a turnip." Those turnips must be something in South Carolina.

In spite of Governor Sanford's yogism he has taken a positive step by coming out in support of a sentencing reform bill. The bill has the potential to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in prison and save the state millions of dollars.

According to the Herald-Journal, the bill is expected to reduce the state's projected prison population enough to negate the need for a new prison -- saving more than $400million over five years.

The bill provides:

* A tiered approach to assault and battery crimes. The bill would provide more options than existing law which provides only a 90-day maximum sentences and 10-year minimum sentences.

* A sentence of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison for habitual offenders convicted of driving under suspension resulting in death or a fine of up to $5,000 and 10 years in prison in such cases where great bodily injury results.

* It's designed to increase training for nonviolent offenders to re-enter society without becoming repeat offenders.

* Focus resources on keeping the most violent offenders in prison for longer period of times.

* Taking non-violent offenders out of the Department of Corrections by using alternative sentencing like GPS monitoring and enhanced communtiy supervision.

The South Carolina senate has passed its version of the bill and it now heads to the state house. Sanford has pledged to shuttle the bill through the house.

My Take

With the yogism aside, Sanford is doing the right thing. In many jurisdictions around the country lawmakers are trying to reduce prison costs on the back of parole and policing. Meaningful reform must include a look at sentencing schemes.

It is irresponsible to take on the enormous costs of prison crowding without looking at the mechinism that put offenders in prison--sentencing. Sanford is in a unique position to push for reform. He is a lame "wounded" duck. He has little prospect for a political future. This positions him to advance causes that other policians would be afraid to touch.

Sanford can move forward on sentencing reform without being concerned about being labeled soft on crime. Sentencing reform could be Sanford's legacy and would have a significant impact on South Carolina. Corrections Director Jon Ozmint told the Herald-Journal, South Carolina currently doesn't have a criminal justice system; rather, it has a patchwork of laws that have been cobbled together over the years.

Ozmint sees this bill being ruled by statistics rather than emotions. Evidence-based practices in place of knee-jerk reaction is a step forward for any state.

No comments:

Post a Comment