Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Carolina Gets Smart on Crime

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford signed into law a new way of dealing with criminals that judges, victims' advocates, crime and justice experts, and Republicans and Democrats all have signed off on, according to The Post and Courier.

The new law is intended to:

--Make sure there is space for high-risk, violent offenders in prison while saving the state an estimated $350 million, the cost of building a new prison.

--Help inmates transition from prison life back to society and increase supervision of former inmates in the community.

--Provide incentives for probationers and parolees to stay drug- and crime-free in order to go from being tax burdens to being taxpayers.

The lengthy new law also redefines 22 crimes as violent, providing longer sentences for some offenders. The new sentences would apply to people who commit crimes beginning on Wednesday.

Sanford said the law was "smart on crime," a sentiment echoed by many Wednesday. The governor said it strikes the right balance and it's good for the taxpayers. Experts from the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States helped the state develop the new law.

According to The Post and Courier, the prison population 25 years ago stood at about 9,000 inmates and is today at 24,000. As the population grew, so did the cost of running the Corrections Department.

In the mid-1980s the prisons ran on $63 million a year. Today it costs $394 million, Sanford said. In another five years the cost is projected to increase by another $141 million, as the prison population grows by another 3,200 inmates.

The some, the new legislation will take effect immediately, others will be phased in over time.

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