The proposed No Parole Bill and Middle Courts

Despite all of the attention focused nationally on the overcrowding of our jails and prisons, our attorney general is pushing a bill that will remove the possibility of parole for any felony in South Carolina. The bill would accomplish two main purposes: to eliminate the possibility of parole for felonies, and to create an alternative court for non-violent offenders.
Under the current scheme, a no parole offense is defined by § 23-13-100 as a Class A, B, or C felony, or any crime that is exempt from classification but punishable by a maximum term of 20 years or more. A person who is convicted of a no parole offense is not eligible for parole and cannot be released until they have served at least 85% of their sentence.
The proposed bill, H.4309, would revise § 23-13-100 to include Class D, E, and F felonies, or any crime that is exempt from classification but punishable by a maximum term of 1 year or more, and it would include Class A and B misdemeanors as well.
The proposed bill would also establish a system of “middle courts,” modeled after drug courts, but not limited to drug offenses. Horry County Drug Court has been praised as a success. It is a wonderful idea, and in theory it should divert many people away from the prison system. I think we all want the drug court, and the proposed middle court expansion, to work, but we need to step back and take a look at what is happening in drug court:
1) Some people are finishing the program, remaining drug free, and avoiding prison to boot. These are the success stories that we want to hear about. Horry County’s drug court began in August of 2005, and has graduated 12 people so far.
2) I am told that most people do not graduate, but I have not seen any numbers on how many have been admitted and how many have flunked out, other than only 12 have graduated in the past 3 years.
3) Before being admitted into the program, the defendant must plead guilty, be sentenced, and then the sentence is deferred pending completion of the program.
4) To be admitted into the program, the defendant must waive any right to appeal or enjoin any decision of the drug court/ middle court judge, and the defendant must waive any right to post conviction relief.
5) If the defendant is dismissed from the program, the defendant does not receive any due process or hearing, and the full sentence is immediately imposed.
So I ask, if most people do not graduate from this program, is it promoting the rehabilitation and re-entry of non-violent offenders into society and reserving the state’s prisons for dangerous offenders, or is it giving the prosecutors an easy out to obtain convictions and often lengthy sentences, without the terrible headache of appeals and PCR’s? So far, it seems that this bill will not only serve to keep people in prison longer, but it will help the prosecutors to send more people there in the first place.
I am not saying that we should scrap the idea, but I do think that we should make sure that it is achieving its stated goals, and I don’t think that this should be used as a way to get around defendant’s due process rights.

3 Responses to “The proposed No Parole Bill and Middle Courts

  • So would this mean early release dates for some prisoners that have been incarcerated for almost 6 years and was supposed to only do 5 years or does this not classify for them?

  • I can’t advise on any particular person’s sentence. That said, the no-parole bill I posted about here would have caused people to serve more time, not less. The bill was not passed this year, though.

  • Wesley Lesesne
    10 years ago

    I post from experience,pay close attention. In my opinion,the need for the court system to recognize that drug and alcohol addiction initiates a high percentage of criminal activity is paramount.Alcohol and drug addicition is a DISEASE and is recognized as so by the American medical Association. To punish someone for abnormal behavior because of cancer would seem absurd but one mention of alcohol and drugs bring sneering comments and condescending comments.However,even with all the facts on addiction,the courts seem to be blind to these facts and continuously convict people , innocent or guilty , of alledged crimes knowing they have thid disease of addiction.Sometimes it would help a defendant to receive help in the form of rehabilitation and education on their problem instead of sending them to prison only to do the same things again upon release.
    I personally am an alcoholic and addict and have been clean for a good while now. I am charged with a couple of crimes that I did not commit and I was drunk when they happened.After everything was revealed,the prosecutor decided that I had to have accountability at some level and suggested drug court in Marlboro county,s.c.. I entertained the idea thinking that it was , of course A.A. oriented. I went to the office and after being interrogated for an hour,was given a time to come back the followoing day to do the paperwork. I was there and it took two hours to do the paperwork. Some of the paperwork I only signed as I had to get back to the courtroom thinking I would have all of it taken care of that day.The worker for drug court didn’t show.
    That same day , the woman over the drug court called the Prosecutor and told her that I refused to give her my doctor’s name and number. That was a lie and after I straightened that out I thought all would be better. The woman called my doctor,as I have physical problems that were being treated, and told him that I had to be immediately taken off the medication that I was receiving because I was a member of the drug court. That , too , was a lie. You must appear before the judge and agree in court before being placed in the program and no such thing was had been done. She was called out for two lies at that time and in her anger,she faxed a paper that I signed,that they had filled in the blanks on stating that I consented to having my medication terminated. As a result , my doctor,by law, had to stop treating me for my disability.This also costed hundreds of dollars because I had to change doctors.
    Needless to say , I chose NOT to enter the drug court and the prosecutor gave no aregument because of the incompetence of the woman over the drug court in Marlboro County. Be really careful before you commit yourself to drug court. If you have an addicition and WANT help,my advice is to go to a rehab. facility NOW.You can go to court later. Apparently the people I dealt with are more concerned with their own personal power trips or whatever and are NOT concerned with recovery and saving the lives of those addicted people that they should be helping instead of decimating.
    The drug court program is more like an intensive probation program run by unqualified personnel. They hold your freedom in their hands is all I am saying and you better want to stay drug and alcohol free before you agree to it. I suggest , once again, going to rehab. first , then make your decision. Good luck and God bless all of you that make a decision to live free of intoxicants. Life will get better.

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