A sentencing reform measure signed into law Wednesday was praised by South Carolina lawmakers as getting smart on crime and "soft" on taxpayers.
The law is designed to put fewer people in prison on minor offenses, and instead help them turn their lives around through improved oversight and training while on parole. The sentencing changes apply to people arrested Wednesday and thereafter.
"Unless we're going to build a bunch more jails, we've got to look at alternatives," Republican Gov. Mark Sanford said before signing off on it. "This bill does that."
The four most common offenses for South Carolina prison inmates are drug charges, burglary, check fraud and driving under suspension, in that order. Proponents say the new law will ensure there is prison space for high-risk, violent criminals, who will serve longer prison terms.
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.