Creating a new court to help South Carolina's nonviolent offenders get help instead of prison time would save the state money and allow it to lock up its most dangerous inmates for a longer time, state Attorney General Henry McMaster said Tuesday.
McMaster visited the Rotary Club of Charleston to urge its members to ask their state lawmakers to pass his No Parole-Middle Court proposal.
The term "Middle Court" refers to a court that's halfway between prison and probation and would expand the concept of the state's drug courts, which are designed to help nonviolent offenders get help so they don't commit another crime.
Removing these nonviolent offenders from the state's prisons would free up room to get rid of parole. 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.
McMaster also urged the 150 Rotary members and guests to help the state's efforts to crack down on dogfighting and on predators who use the Internet to solicit sex from children. He noted such predators once had to go to parks or school grounds to find victims, but now they can operate from anywhere. "It's raining perverts," he said. "We can't get 'em all."