State AG wants to get rid of parole

Image by flickr user Jay EricksonImage by 20080723prisons.jpg McMaster says the plan will save the state a lot of money, but will it really work? More than that, the question is whether it can get past the legislature.

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster was in town Tuesday night seeking community support for his proposal to get rid of parole in the state prisons system. McMaster's plan calls for a new court, the Middle Court, that would keep nonviolent offenders out of prison, which he says would free up the prison space necessary to abolish parole for dangerous criminals.

The attorney general spoke at the Charleston Rotary Club to about 150 people, mostly about how the plan would save the state loads of money and keep our streets safer. From The Post and Courier:

McMaster said he wants violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Inmates could slice off 15 percent of their sentence, but they wouldn't be eligible for parole. McMaster said that would ease the burden on victim's families who no longer would have to make regular trips before the parole board to speak against an inmate's release.

"That will send a clear message to the criminal element that if you do the crime you will do the time," he said. While some might expect a move to swell the population of the state's already-crowded prisons, he said other states that have taken similar steps have seen their prison growth slow, possibly because criminals realize their sentences will be longer.

"We know it will work. What we have to do is get it passed in the Legislature," he said.

The State newspaper has a two-day in-depth series on the Middle Court plan, detailing the proposal and the debate surrounding it. It's a good read with a lot of information if you're interested in the issue.

From The State:

A chorus of critics say the proposal lacks details. More importantly, they say, it would require new spending in a state unwilling to fully fund its current prison system.

“What’s missing from this plan is any willingness at all to pay for the consequences of this proposal,” said Jon Ozmint, director of the state’s Department of Corrections, who ran against McMaster in the 2002 Republican primary race for attorney general. “It’s a Trojan horse.”

McMaster’s proposal failed to clear either the House or Senate this past legislative session. But McMaster, who has been mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, said he’s certain it will pass when the General Assembly convenes again in January.

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