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FAMM Salutes South Carolina for Enacting Bold Sentencing Reform
Palmetto State Joins Growing List of States Tacking a New Direction on Crime Control
WASHINGTON - June 3 - Families Against Mandatory Minimums today hailed South Carolina's enactment of major criminal sentencing reform legislation. The bill was signed into law on Wednesday by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford yesterday.
"South Carolina did it the right way. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents came together to eliminate mandatory jail time for first-time, nonviolent offenders and make sure prison space is available for real threats to public safety," said Deborah Fleischaker, FAMM's Director of State Legislative Affairs.
"Sentencing reform is not liberal or conservative. It's just smart. That's why historically conservative states like Texas and South Carolina are joining typically liberal states like New York and Rhode Island in passing reforms that protect public safety at less cost to state taxpayers," said Fleischaker.
The new law refocuses the South Carolina criminal justice system toward education and supervision for low-level offenders and away from incarceration. Among other things, the bill eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for a first conviction on simple drug possession, permits the possibility of probation or parole for certain second and third drug possession convictions, and removes the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for violations of its drug-free school zone law. The bill also removes sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine possession. Further, the new law allows home detention for people convicted a third time for driving under suspension, and route-restricted drivers' licenses on first- and second convictions, while increasing penalties for habitual offenders who gravely injure or kill someone while driving on suspension.
The legislation was the culmination of more than 40 meetings by a study committee that included House and Senate members of both parties, state judges and the Corrections Department director, with input from various law enforcement agencies and victims' advocates.
Fleischaker noted that FAMM members in South Carolina contacted their state representatives in the weeks before the final vote to urge passage of this major reform.
Over a dozen cash-crunched states, including New Jersey, Rhode Island and Michigan have enacted significant sentencing reforms in the last decade, saving millions of dollars and reducing pressure on overcrowded prisons. FAMM can provide background about the states that are rejecting mandatory minimums and retooling their sentencing laws.