COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- A special legislative committee has been reviewing all aspects of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, including operations, staffing levels, and inmate programs and resources.
Tuesday, the lawmakers heard from the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. The organization is in charge of a program that works directly with inmates with misdemeanor charges.
In N.C., inmates with misdemeanors are placed within county jails. It’s called the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program (SMCP).
“What the program does is manages the transportation housing and medical expenses of state inmates convicted of misdemeanor crime,” explained Edmond Caldwell, the V.P. of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association.
It’s an idea some South Carolina lawmakers are interested in.
Current South Carolina law requires inmates with a sentence of 91 days or more to be placed in a state prison. This placement often leads to additional burdens on the SC Department of Corrections, which is understaffed.
Caldwell provided members of the House Legislative Oversight Committee some background on the N.C. program.
“Our legislature was interested in addressing increases in prison population in the upcoming years and what they called an unusual number of misdemeanants in state prisons.”
North Carolina’s program is voluntary. The sheriff can opt in or out and can decide how many beds the jail will offer for state use.
But Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster worries a program like this could create additional strain for smaller agencies.
“The department of corrections is going to pay money which isn’t a bad thing, but on the other hand you have to have the staff to watch them and we don’t have the manpower working adequately right now.”
Lawmakers also have concerns. Representative Micah Caskey applauded the NC Sheriffs’ Association for its progressive approach, but expressed issues with the program’s structure. “My concern this is a backdoor way to privatize prison systems.”
One of the biggest concerns with applying a proposal like the SMCP in South Carolina is funding; who will pay for it and how much will it cost.
Right now, South Carolina pays $70 a day per inmate to house them in a state prison.
In North Carolina, the rate is $90 a day. But with this program inmates are able to be placed in county jails for $40 a day.