State Fact Sheet

Public Safety in South Carolina

South Carolina was one of the first states to enact comprehensive sentencing and corrections reform as part of what became known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. The 2010 law, S.B. 1154, modified dozens of sentencing policies, improved parole decision-making, strengthened community supervision, and required oversight and accountability. The measure was expected to save state taxpayers as much as $241 million over five years. From 2010 to 2014, South Carolina nearly halved the number of offenders in its custody for violating the terms of parole or probation and saved nearly $20 million in related costs between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. The legislation originated in the bipartisan, interbranch South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission, which worked with Pew and its partners to conduct research and develop policy recommendations. 

This approach is soft on the taxpayer and smart on crime. It is soft on the taxpayer because it will reduce the need to build more prisons. It is smart on crime because community-based alternatives such as restitution and drug courts entail more accountability and have been proven to reduce recidivism.
—state Senator George E. “Chip” Campsen III (R)

Between 1983 and 2009, South Carolina’s prison population surged from 9,137 inmates to 24,612, and in 2010 was facing additional projected expansion of more than 3,200 prisoners by 2014. And state spending on prisons skyrocketed from about $64 million in 1983 to $394 million in 2008. Despite this growth, violent crime and recidivism rates remained high. Senator Gerald Malloy (D) continues to chair the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee, which monitors implementation of the 2010 law and generates new policy reforms.