State Fact Sheet

Public Safety in South Carolina

South Carolina was one of the first states to enact comprehensive sentencing and corrections reforms 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 legislative oversight and accountability. As of 2015, the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act has cut the state’s daily prison population by more than 9 percent (to 22 percent below projections), increased probation and parole completion rates by 12 and 9 percent, respectively, and closed two and a half prison facilities. The state has also realized better returns on public safety: The violent and property crime rates fell by 16 and 7 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2013. To date, the measure has saved the state at least $18.7 million, with additional cost savings arising from avoiding projected prison population increases. 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)

South Carolina’s prison population surged from 9,137 inmates to 24,612 between 1983 and 2009 and faced an additional estimated expansion of more than 3,200 prisoners from 2010 to 2014. Further, 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.

To ensure the continued success of the state’s efforts, the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee, chaired by state Senator Gerald Malloy (D), monitors implementation of the 2010 law and generates new policy reforms as needed.