What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
In 2009, South Carolina’s criminal justice system was in crisis, facing rising costs and a rapidly growing prison population. There were 24,612 people serving time in the state’s prisons, and the prison population was expected to grow by 3,200 over the next five years—at a cost of $458 million to the state. Meanwhile, the state’s violent crime rates were among the worst in the nation and recidivism was on the rise.
In response, South Carolina legislators enacted comprehensive criminal justice reform to
strengthen public safety, implement fair and effective sentencing policies, and control the growth of
corrections costs. In 2010, Senate Bill (SB) 1154, the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform
Act, was signed into law by Governor Mark Sanford.
Policy changes enacted by SB 1154 included restructuring penalties for certain violent, drug, and
property offenses; expanding the amount of earned time available to people in prison; broadening
eligibility for probation and parole; mandating postrelease supervision; and enhancing the use of
administrative responses to technical violations of supervision terms.
This brief finds that, following these reforms, use of administrative responses increased. Reform implementation was associated with a decline in recidivism; people beginning supervision after the reforms were 33 percent less likely to be incarcerated after one year compared with pre-reform cohorts. Still, implementation of these reforms was impeded by several challenges, including delays, data limitations, and funding roadblocks.