COLUMBIA — Victims advocates are worried that a proposal to consolidate the state’s probation and parole agency with the Department of Corrections puts dollars and cents above justice.
A study committee, comprised of lawmakers, state officials and a representative for Gov. Mark Sanford, will meet on Statehouse grounds Wednesday to discuss the cost-saving measure. The group is charged with weighing the issue and developing a consolidation plan for consideration by the Legislature, which reconvenes in January.
Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims Council, doesn’t have a seat at the table but said she’ll be on hand to monitor the discussion.
“My concerns are we’d be making decisions about public safety based on money and what we can afford instead of what’s best for the community and the safety of our community,” Hudson said Monday.
Sen. Mike Fair, a Greenville Republican and chairman of the Senate’s Corrections and Penology Committee, first floated the idea earlier this year. Fair said most states have merged their prison systems with probation and parole services, or at a minimum have a more hand-in-hand approach.
“If we can save money, let’s take a look at it and get some experts talking to us,” Fair said.
The matter is especially important now, given the strain of recent budget cuts, Fair said. The state budget crunch has forced the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services to do more with less, like other parts of state government.
The Post and Courier highlighted difficulties in the justice system in a 2008 series called “Law and Disorder.” The series revealed how criminals free on probation or parole kill, rob and rape when released into a system ill-equipped to maintain control. Some agents juggle more than 170 cases each and lack cell phones, cars and other resources to do their jobs.
Read more in Tuesday’s editions of The Post and Courier.