Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006
looking at ways to take bites out of crime
SC Statehouse Report
15, 2006 - When the Legislature returns in January, one of
the first things lawmakers likely will consider is how to
take a bigger bite out of crime.
Despite statistics that show violent crime like murder is
slightly down over past years, there's a perception crime
is becoming more of a problem. That's due to a spate of murders
in communities across the state this year, a perceived increase
in gang violence and media reports of incidents across the
For the past several weeks, a special Senate task force has
been meeting to look into legislative remedies for violent
crime. But as Sen. Gerald Malloy notes, the whole criminal
justice system needs to be reviewed in South Carolina, which
has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.
job is to reach a balance on whether we're going to be a lock-em-up
or a rehabilitative society," said the Hartsville Democrat
who is heading the task force. "Just to add more stringent
penalties doesn't solve the crime problem."
Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, the Charleston
Republican who launched the task force with Malloy as chair,
said it was clear a single approach wouldn't fix the state's
criminal justice system.
"There is a multiplicity of problems," he said,
noting that criminal justice activities have been underfunded
for years. "We've got to get a message across to this
General Assembly that spending money in this area - - courts,
adding prosecutors, adding indigent defense and alternative
sentencing - - can pay dividends in public safety down the
Among the areas being studied by lawmakers:
funding. When Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. recently
testified and unrolled a long rap sheet of an individual arrested
but not sent to jail, lawmakers got a clear message the system
was too clogged to get some of the bad guys off of the streets.
They'll be looking at more funding for courts to reduce backlogged
cases and more money for solicitors and public defenders to
reduce their case loads to help move those facing charges
more quickly through the system.
Better case management. The state currently doesn't
have a unified electronic case management system, but professionals
say such a system could help tremendously in court dockets
and scheduling. Lawmakers might also look at using the system
to promote accountability because it could be used to set
deadlines for cases to be heard in court. If they weren't
heard by a deadline, the court might be able to take over
"If we are able to get the courts unclogged, people
out on bond will end up in state prison at a faster rate and
we'll remove the pressure for plea bargaining," McConnell
Alternative sentences and sentencing guidelines. Prison
officials and lawmakers say alternative sentences are needed
because non-violent criminals, such as drug users, are swelling
the prison population. Additional burdens have been put on
prisons, they say, due to mandatory minimum sentences without
corresponding improvements in facilities. The state hasn't
opened a new prison since 1994.
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State Corrections Department Director Jon Ozmint noted in
a Sept. 18 letter to Malloy that South Carolina currently
ranks 50th on spending on corrections. "Crimes involving
no actual violence, such as drug use, purchasing and distribution,
should be reclassified as nonviolent and the mandatory minimum
sentences and TIS [truth-in-sentencing] requirements should
be reduced and/or removed," he wrote.
Going after gangs. State Law Enforcement Division
Chief Robert Stewart said while violent crime dropped 2.5
percent in 2005 according to preliminary figures, gang violence
has increased from 272 reported incidents in 2001 to 691 incidents
in 2005. The state needs a better monitoring system for gang
violence and he has urged state lawmakers to give power to
the State Grand Jury to target gang violence.
DNA collection. Officials suggest another strategy
is to draw DNA samples from people who have been arrested,
but not convicted, in serious crimes. Seven states already
collect such samples, Stewart said, according to The Post
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here for more.
10/13: Made in
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
10/6: Sanford needs
to pay attention to state boards
To the editor:
I just read your article (Commentary,
9/3) regarding the massive number of unfilled positions
on state boards and commissions, due to the Governor's lack
As an agency head, I am so frustrated with this issue. I am
appointed by a seven-member board for the State Library. Two
board members' terms expired July 1, and they are not eligible
for reappointment. The board chair's term also expired; he
could be reappointed.
This leaves us with 4 "current" members, serving
according to the rules. If one of the four is unable to attend
a board meeting, we do not have a quorum and cannot conduct
As a new agency head, I began contacting the Governor's Appointments
Secretary last January. We sent recommendations for new members
from the applicable legislative districts.
If anyone has a good solution -- I would love to hear it.
Thanks for listening.
-- Patti Butcher, Columbia, S.C.
NOTE: Ms. Bucher is director of the S.C.
State Library. She has resigned to return to her home state
of Kansas. Her last day is Oct. 20. More.
criticism is unfair, Jon Heckerman, Garden City Beach,
surprised by Sanford's remark, Lynn Bailey, Columbia,
on Brack trying to control thought, Lew Richards,
Manning , S.C.
aback by Sanford's remark, Jimmy Mackey, Beaufort,
handheld cell use while driving, Bob Logan, Little
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