S.C. Approves Sentencing Reform, Removes Some Drug Mandatory Minimums
The South Carolina Senate has approved sweeping reforms of the state’s sentencing policies, including reductions in prison time for first-time drug convictions and non-violent offenders, The State reported March 26.
The bill modulates sentencing to focus on education and supervision for lesser offenders rather than incarceration, according to state Sen. Gerald Molloy, chairman of the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission, which championed the bill.
Mandatory minimum sentences have been removed for first-time drug possession, while probation and parole opportunities for second- and third-time offenders were expanded. The bill eliminated sentencing disparities for crack and powdered cocaine possession.
The move comes at a time when state budgets nationwide are facing a fiscal crunch. South Carolina’s prison population has swelled in recent years, from 9,200 inmates in 1983 to 25,000 in 2009, with costs rising from $64 million to $394 million yearly.
One in five incarcerations in South Carolina are drug-related.