Charleston County incarceration rates down, more work needed, report says

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) on Tuesday released the 2020 Annual Report. Among the report’s key findings is a downward trend in local incarceration rates, which the report attributes to implementing alternative strategies, like mental health counseling.

According to the report, local bookings in the jail decreased by 62% between 2014 and 2020, and the local jail population decreased by 38%.

In 2019, Charleston County began focusing on initiatives such as:

  • Increasing education, training, and awareness for justice system stakeholders
    • Specially trained units for special populations (mental health)
    • Training on sensitivity, substance abuse and human-first language
  • Creating more opportunities for community members to become actively involved and engaged
    • Community buy-ins
    • More involvement between the council and the community
  • Building on efforts and activities the CJCC is doing
    • Provide adequate funding for council based on qualitative results
    • Focus on the challenges of reentry from prison and jail
  • Establishing partnerships and collaborations that will support local justice reform
    • Prevention before intervention
    • Find community leaders to be the face and voice of this advisory

However, the report also identified areas of weakness within the system. Notably, “Charleston’s local jail population is almost entirely pretrial with lengths of stay increasing as charges coming in are more serious than they used to be.”

Additionally, “time to disposition, in General Sessions, is increasing and the number of cases awaiting justice is growing.” If cases are continuously processed at the current rate, pending cases could increase by 40% in the next two years.

To address the shortcomings, a Fiscal Year 2021-2021 Strategic Plan proposes pre-trial service options and emphasizes “effective case management efforts to help reduce the backlog of cases.”

Other points of the Plan include a Race Equity Fellowship program “for community leaders to advance equity,” and a Jail-Involved Familiar Face pilot program “to achieve positive outcomes for individuals that most often cycle in and out of jail.”

Click here to read the full report.

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