SC has one of the lowest recidivism rates in country, new survey shows

SCDC's director attributed the lower rate to the department's efforts to prepare inmates for reentry


By Emily Bohatch
The State (Columbia, S.C.)
        
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina has one of the lowest rates of recidivism in the country, according to a new survey by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

According to the survey, about 21.9% of inmates released from South Carolina correctional institutions return to prison within three years.

The Palmetto State was surveyed against 42 other states that report their recidivism rates in a three-year increment like South Carolina. Recidivism ranged from South Carolina's low rate to 62.2% in Delaware.

The statistic is the latest showing that fewer people incarcerated in the state are returning to prison year after year. In 2010, South Carolina's recidivism rate was 33%.

"This is a happy day in South Carolina," S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said Tuesday at a press conference.

S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling attributed the lower rate of recidivism to the department's efforts to prepare inmates for reentry to the world after incarceration.

Those programs include educational opportunities, vocational training and job preparedness courses. The department has also partnered with other state agencies to help inmates get identification before they leave prison, make sure they have street clothes, ensure they will have continuity in mental health services, and connections with the Department of Employment and Workforce to help them get a job.

According to Employment and Workforce Director Dan Ellzey, of the about 2,300 inmates who have completed his department's program, 71% have successfully secured jobs.

Programs are available to inmates at all custody levels. At Manning Reentry/Work Release Center in Columbia, minimum-security inmates who are within six months of being released can take advantage of the programs. Medium-security prisoners can use them at Kershaw Correctional Institution. Most recently, a two-year pre-release program opened at Lieber Correctional Institution for maximum-security inmates.

Stirling also applauded private partnerships that help inmates get on their feet, including their work with Catholic Charities to help inmates obtain their personal documents and find housing.

"We want to make them better and give them the opportunity to do it and not come back to prison," Stirling said.

Stirling said for every percentage point South Carolina goes lower in recidivism rate, that means 92 inmates do not return to prison. That saves the state $6 million in tax dollars.

"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," McMaster said in a statement.

Stirling said he hoped to continue to see improvement in the state's recidivism rate.

Ellzey said Employment and Workforce employees will begin working to secure interviews and jobs for inmates before they even leave prison. Stirling said the department is currently restructuring it's classification system, which would give more inmates access to more of the reentry programs going forward.

"A little bit of help and they're not going to return to prison," Stirling said.

Next: Guide: What corrections officials need to know to implement in-prison college programs
    
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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