COLUMBIA — In the near future, 20 probation agents will have the sole task of supervising domestic violence offenders.
The new positions are part of the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services' effort to specialize the skills of agents while working to decrease caseload. Director Jerry Adger said he hopes to fill the jobs by promoting from within the agency.
The ultimate goal, he said, is more closely supervise those convicted of domestic violence to ensure they don't offend again.
"There's a serious issue with domestic violence in South Carolina," he said. "And those folks that are under our supervision, they come out of the system. ... We're responsible for them. In order to make sure that they don't recidivate, or they don't reoffend, we need to be prepared to help them."
The General Assembly in 2015 passed several domestic violence reforms. The legislation was drafted after The Post and Courier published its Pulitzer Prize-winning “Till Death Do Us Part” series, which highlighted South Carolina’s ranking among the deadliest states for women at the hands of men.
As the state has gotten more vigilant in prosecuting domestic violence offenders, the number of offenders under supervision by the agency has more than doubled in the past two years, from 730 to 1,651 as of June 1.
The Legislature approved $1.2 million this year to create the 20 positions, and the agency this week plans to begin accepting applications for those seeking to get specialized training in working with domestic violence offenders.
The 20 agents will take a one-week training before shifting their focus to solely supervising those convicted of domestic violence.
The specialized agents each will monitor a maximum of 60 men and women across South Carolina, covering about 60 percent of the state's domestic violence offenders. They will be centered in areas of the state with high numbers of offenders, with two agents expected to monitor the 100 people on probation or parole between Charleston and Dorchester counties.
"We feel like when we specialize with this, we can give them more intensive supervision," said Jennifer Brice, assistant regional director of field operations. "We can not only see them in the offices, we can see them in their homes, we talk with their families, we attend treatment with them to see how those batterers intervention treatment programs are going and how they're doing in the community."
Adger said he hopes in the future to place an agent in every county.
"We don't want to just take these positions and put people in them," he said. We really want to have this to be a program so we can come back a year from now, a year-and-a-half from now, and say look this is what it has done for the state of South Carolina. This is the impact it's had on us."