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SC Prisons Staff Change: Move Could Help Rehab Efforts

Shakeup inside South Carolina’s correctional agency …

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Our news site has devoted extensive bandwidth this year to the myriad of problems plaguing the South Carolina prison system.

To read some of our recent reports chronicling this untenable situation, click herehere and here.

To read some of our proposed solutions, click here.

Bottom line?  There’s a culture of chaos behind prison walls in the Palmetto State, and it’s being driven by any number of factors – including but not limited to gang rivalries, insufficient/ incompetent staffing, institutional corruption (i.e. guards who are part of the problem) and an influx of contraband.

There’s another issue to consider, though – an underlying failure on the part of the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) to properly identify, segregate and rehabilitate inmates.

“The ultimate objective of any correctional institution must be to contribute to public safety by keeping dangerous individuals contained and reforming (to the extent possible) those inmates willing to change the trajectory of their lives,” we wrote.

That’s not happening in South Carolina … at all.

To be clear, this isn’t completely SCDC’s fault.  The agency is governed by court orders which tightly regulate its internal procedures regarding inmate segregation.  It’s also hamstrung by a parole system which reflexively rejects even non-violent offenders with pristine discipline records – thus removing any incentive for prisoners to behave.

Also, recent outbreaks of violence have resulted in multiple statewide lockdowns – creating a “powder keg” scenario that is steadily exacerbating tensions behind bars.

Against this backdrop, a major staffing move is about to take place within SCDC.

Announced last month, veteran prison administrator Nena Staley will be taking over the role of deputy director of programs and services.  A former warden at the Manning Reentry/ Work Release Center in Columbia, S.C., Staley has been working at SCDC headquarters for the past few months preparing for her new role.

She will replace Sandra Barrett, who is retiring effective January 2.

According to one of our prison insiders, Staley is “a strong advocate for inmate programs.”

“It’s a welcome change,” another source close to the prison system told us.

Let’s hope so …

In our previous coverage, we noted that “prisons shouldn’t be day care centers for murderers.”  In fact we’ve called on more murderers to be dispatched posthaste via an expansion of capital punishment.  But those behind bars who can be rehabilitated should be rehabilitated.

What is “true rehabilitation?”  That’s a good question, but we believe it involves a mix of education, vocational work, physical fitness, nutrition and yes, relaxation and some component of spirituality (assuming inmates are so inclined).

Should prisoners be entitled to such things?  Yes, to the extent their behavior warrants it …

Stay tuned.  We’ll continue to follow developments at SCDC closely and report back to our readers on what we uncover.

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