South Carolina legislators revamped criminal sentencing laws last year, but the state is still waiting for judges to respond and the number of prisoners to drop significantly, reports the Charleston Post & Courier. Eight months have passed since the sentencing reform plan was put into law as a way to free up space in prisons by putting more nonviolent offenders into community-based treatment and supervision programs. Supporters of the law argue that dramatic changes will take more time.
The roughly 24,000-inmate prison population is down by 600. The House’s lead budget writer, Rep. Dan Cooper, was frustrated when the Department of Corrections came before the Budget and Control Board last week to ask permission to run a deficit for the fourth consecutive year. Former Department of Corrections Director Jon Ozmint said the savings from the sentencing reform never were supposed to have been immediate. As the law reduces the growth in the inmate population over the next five years, the state is expected to avoid spending $175 million in new construction and operating costs, he said.