COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina has the lowest recidivism rate in the country, according to a new study from the Virginia Department of Corrections.
The study shows 21.9% of inmates released by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) re-offend and end up behind bars again within three years of their release date.
State prison officials and other state leaders, were joined by Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) at Manning Reentry and Work Release Center in Columbia for the announcement Tuesday.
Governor McMaster said, “The importance of reduced recidivism rates cannot be understated as it makes an enormous impact across our state as former inmates become productive members of our communities.”
State officials credit re-entry programs they have established over the last few years.
A former inmate who went through one of these programs is Antonio Sadler. He was in prison for ten years and credits the skills he learned from the reentry program for his success beyond the fence.
Sadler said, “I can honestly say, even though I didn’t see at the time, this place helped me grow as a man and become a better human being.”
SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said in addition to these programs, public and private partnerships have helped former inmates take advantage of their second chance.
South Carolina’s recidivism rate was 33% about a decade ago. Stirling said when he took over the state agency in 2013 he wanted to see what could be done to improve this number.
He said, “I saw people leaving in prison uniforms, all we did was take the stripe off. They were just given a bag, a little bit of money and we said good luck.”
Stirling said programs are now open to all inmates. Their goal is to make sure inmates leave their custody with an education, job, housing and means to get mental health or substance abuse services. According to Stirling they’ve also worked to address the stigma surrounding hiring former inmates.
“These employers are going to want to hire these folks. They know they’re going to get good folks who leave Corrections because they’re going to be prepared. They’re going to show up to work and be ready to work,” Stirling said.
The state Department of Employment Workforce said 71% of inmates who use their services land a job.
Officials said this decrease in recidivism saves taxpayers money. Stirling said for every percentage point decrease means about 92 inmates don’t come back to prison. He said that saves South Carolina $6 million.
So far, the General Assembly has allocated about $4 million for reentry programs at SCDC.
For more information on recidivism in South Carolina prisons click or tap here.