By JAMIE DAVIS
The success of the Smarter Sentencing Program in Columbia and Union Counties will hopefully lead to the implementation of the program across the state, 13th Judicial District Prosecutor Robin Carroll told Magnolia Rotarians Thursday.
Carroll outlined the program for the Rotary Club, explaining that the program helps to alleviate the state’s problems of a growing inmate population and the costs associated with its prison system.
Violent offenders are not permitted to participate in the program, Carroll noted, adding that offenders are rated on a tier scale. Tier 1 offenders are the least likely to commit another crime, and those in Tier 3 are most likely to re-offend, he said. Individuals can be “vetoed” from participation in Smarter Sentencing, he stated.
The goal of Smarter Sentencing is to reduce recidivism by 25 percent, he said.
“That means someone who is convicted of a felony and commits another crime,” Carroll explained.
Carroll reviewed the statistics from the program’s year, noting that the state saw a total savings of $4,202,249 last year because of the programs implementation in Columbia and Union Counties, which are the 29th and 16th largest counties in the state, respectively.
“If we do this statewide, the savings would be very large,” he said, adding that those savings could then be applied to items such as education.
Among the data included in Carroll’s presentation were the following figures:
• A 3.2 recidivism rate among 218 participants, including 3.1 percent for 162 participants in Union County and 3.5 percent for 56 in Columbia County. The recidivism rate for the state is 46.4 percent.
• Union County had 210 ADC or CCC placements in 2010, and Columbia County had 69 that year. In 2011, those figures dropped to 126 and 25, respectively. Between both counties, there was a reduction in ADC/CCC placements of 128 people, a 46 percent decrease from 2011, for a savings of $2,762,086 to the state.
• Union County placed 266 people on probation in 2010, compared to 145 in 2011. In Columbia County, 104 people were placed on probation in 2010, compared to 25 in 2011. Those figures represent a total reduction of 200 fewer people, or 56 percent, on probation.
• Assuming all 218 Smarter Sentencing participants were placed on probation in 2011, and assuming a 58 percent recidivism rate, the savings to the state was $1,564,315.
• There has been a 23 percent increase in adult education (GED), work force certificates and career readiness certificates among program participants. Employment among participants increased from 41 percent to 69 percent. In Columbia County, as of Thursday, there were 38 participants in Columbia County enrolled in classes for high school diploma equivalency testing, workforce certificates and career readiness training.
Carroll pointed out also that upon entrance to the program, 98 percent of participants tested positive for illegal substances. Within two months of graduation from the program, he said, there have been zero positive drug tests, with a compliance rate of 93.4 percent for all drug and alcohol tests.
“I’ve always heard that 80-90 percent of crime is related to drugs,” he added, noting that one of Smarter Sentencing’s goals is to address the factors - such as drug addiction - that lead people to commit crimes.