SC Dept. of Corrections brings recommended law changes to table

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- In April 2018, several inmates were killed at Lee Correctional Institute after a fight that went on for hours before law enforcement could take back the prison.

The fight revealed issues with the SC Department of Corrections that lawmakers are now trying to fix.

At the State House Tuesday, the House Legislative Oversight Committee held its first meeting of the year to look at possible changes to the agency.

Over the last year and a half, the committee has looked at the departments’ operations, facilities, staffing, and inmate treatment.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise that we have challenges,” said Representative Micah Caskey, member of the oversight committee.

The state’s sentencing system is just one area where the department is recommending legislative changes, like reducing time served for an inmate from 80% to 70% and fixing the state’s logging system.

Representative Caskey explained, “What has shook me the most is that we have been inconsistent with how long people need to stay in jail and that’s for a lot of reasons.”

The state currently uses a paper system to keep track of an inmate’s sentence. SCDC Director Bryan Stirling explained some issues with the system.

“It’s a paper system so it’s something we have to interpret. It’s like the telephone game. If it comes from the court or solicitor on a paper form we have to interpret it, my staff has to interpret it.”

Lawmakers and SCDC want to also address sentencing requirements for placement in a state prison.

Director Stirling continued, “To have people not to come to prison unless they’ve been sentenced to a year they would spend the time in county jail. We are one of the lowest states with folks coming in at 91 days.”

Salary cap for retired employees and increased penalties for the smuggling of contraband are also on the department’s list of recommendations for lawmakers to move forward with.

SCDC says at least one cell phone company is not cooperating with technology in the prisons to restrict cell phone use. The department is hoping to have legislation passed this year requiring companies to cooperate.

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