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Reports: Fewer People behind Bars in South Carolina Prisons, Charleston County Jail amid Ongoing Reforms

The Post and Courier

By Gregory Yee

A pair of recent reports show South Carolina criminal justice reform efforts, both statewide and in Charleston County, are reducing the number of people behind bars.

On Tuesday, the S.C. Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee — made up of state senators, representatives and a handful of other officials — received a report from Pew Charitable Trusts that showed the state’s imprisonment rate fell from 11th in the nation to 19th from 2010 through 2015.

In Charleston County, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which is working to reduce the jail population at the Al Cannon Detention Center, among other efforts, reported a 7 percent drop in inmates since 2016.

State Sen. Gerald Malloy, who chairs the oversight committee, said that while the preliminary report’s findings are promising, it is merely a first step and that further study will be needed in the coming months.

“We are going to where the data leads us,” said Malloy, a Darlington Democrat.

At the state level, prison population reduction efforts stem from the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act in 2010, which was aimed at reducing recidivism — when a convicted criminal reoffends — and increasing public safety, among other goals.

Also highlighted in the Pew report were a 14 percent drop in the prison population, a 16 percent drop in the overall crime rate and a 10 percent decline in recidivism. A report released in June by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a nonpartisan public policy group, also highlighted positive changes in the S.C. prison system.

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