FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHARLESTON - The ACLU of South Carolina today sent a letter calling on Governor McMaster to immediately implement a prison reduction plan for people in custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). The letter recommends that presumption of immediate release be granted to any incarcerated person whose release would not jeopardize public safety and who has serious underlying medical issues, is age 50 or older, has serious mental health conditions, or who is within six months of their anticipated release date. Additionally, the letter calls on the governor to direct the Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconvene to execute online parole hearings and grant parole on an expedited basis to parole-eligible individuals who have been disciplinary free for the past year, who are in prison solely for technical violations of parole or probation, or who are serving indeterminate sentences who meet the expanded parameters for medical and geriatric release.
In light of the health emergency rising from rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, the ACLU of South Carolina has requested that Governor McMaster publicly commit to enacting a prison reduction plan no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 13, 2020.
The recommendations outlined in the letter align with actions taken by the federal government and in other states including Kentucky, Georgia, Colorado, and Iowa.
“Governor McMaster has the power to prevent the potentially catastrophic impact of COVID-19 in our prisons,” said ACLU of South Carolina Criminal Justice and Legal Counsel Shirene Hansotia. “The lives of incarcerated people are at stake. Our governor must immediately mandate a decisive, swift, and coordinated statewide response by all stakeholders in the criminal legal system.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions – such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes – or who are otherwise immuno-compromised are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. Incarcerated people are housed in close quarters, are often in poor health, are unable to engage in social distancing practices, and thus are at heightened risk of becoming infected with and dying from COVID-19.
“Public health experts have been sounding the alarm about the dangers of COVID-19 to incarcerated people, and South Carolina’s prisons house many whose underlying health conditions and age make them especially vulnerable to severe illness or death,” said ACLU of South Carolina Legal Director Susan K. Dunn. “Without immediate action, South Carolina’s prisons risk becoming public health disasters. We are counting on Governor McMaster’s leadership to address this issue before it is too late.”
This action follows a series of efforts made by the ACLU of South Carolina to persuade officials to safely reduce the prison and jail population in response to dire threats associated with a COVID-19 outbreak in correctional facilities. To review our work to date and follow our updates, visit https://www.aclusc.org/en/covid-19-and-your-rights.