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SC Prison System Coming Under Legislative Microscope

House oversight panel to take up S.C. Department of Corrections …

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Multiple members of the South Carolina House legislative oversight committee told us this week that the investigatory panel will soon convene hearings into the increasingly out-of-control S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC).

Is this a big deal?

Yes … this panel has distinguished itself during its ongoing investigation of the scandal-scarred S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS).  Earlier this year one of its subcommittees – led by state representative Eddie Tallon – published a damning report detailing SCDPS mismanagement.

This report blasted the agency for soaring traffic fatalities, lax law enforcement, misappropriation of public funds and poor recruitment (and retention) of officers.  Recruitment and retention issues have been particularly pronounced when it comes to steadily worsening shortages of S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) troopers.  These trooper shortages are materially compromising public safety – and SCDPS director Leroy Smith’s only answer to the problem so far has been to dramatically reduce trooper training requirements.

Which we believe will further compromise public safety …

Compounding the retention problem?  SCDPS has spent somewhere between $9 and $21 million over the past four years (the agency apparently doesn’t know how much) in an effort to recruit and retain state troopers.

That effort has produced a net gain of precisely two troopers …

“You’ve got the resources, you’re just not using them,” oversight committee chairman Weston Newton told Smith earlier this week.

Anyway, this news site has been all over the SCDPS scandals from the beginning … just as we’ve been all over the deteriorating situation at SCDC.

For our examples of our recent investigative reporting on that agency, click herehere and here.  And for some thoughts on what might be done to correct the problem, click here.

Like SCDPS, a major problem with South Carolina’s prison system involves ongoing shortages in staffing.  There simply aren’t enough officers to do the job, and those who are hired aren’t paid what they ought to be.

Some progress has been made this year to address these issues, sources close to the agency tell us, but clearly much more work remains to be done.

As we’ve noted on numerous prior occasions, law enforcement and corrections are two core functions of government.  The fact they are being mismanaged/ shortchanged is inexcusable under any circumstance, but it’s downright appalling considering the recent growth in South Carolina’s state budget.

Taxpayers keep sending billions of dollars in new money to Columbia, S.C. only to watch their hard-earned cash get pumped into failed bureaucracies producing steadily deteriorating results.

Roads, schools, police, prisons … you name it.  South Carolina government continues to do “less with more.”

We look forward to seeing what this committee comes up with as it beings its investigation of SCDC early next year.

Unlike other legislative panels, these lawmakers have (to their credit) proven serious about uncovering problems within the agencies they review.

Let’s hope their colleagues in the legislature are serious about identifying real solutions … because South Carolina taxpayers can no longer afford to continue throwing money at guaranteed failure.

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