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Charleston County officials working on 'over representation' of blacks in jail

(Source: AP Stock Graphic) (Source: AP Stock Graphic)
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Officials in Charleston County are working to lower what they're calling an 'over representation' of African Americans in the county detention center.

According to a study by the Justice Management Institute, blacks are about five times more likely to be jailed than whites in Charleston County.

"It's not a Charleston specific issue. Again, that's epidemic across the country," Franklin Cruz of the Justice Management Institute said.

With a $150,000 grant from the MacArthur foundation, the Justice Management Institute and Charleston County's criminal justice coordinating council are working together to try to reduce the number of African Americans in the jail.

The council is made up of law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors and public defenders.

"What we're trying to do is make sure the right people are in jail and stay there and the people who shouldn't be in jail are not there," Charleston County Asst. Sheriff Mitch Lucas said.

Lucas is chairman of the council. He says many of the minorities are locked up for lesser offenses where they can't come up with bond money.

"What if we didn't make them come up with $500? What if we had a process that says a person is a good candidate to show up for court without requiring him to post bond?" Lucas suggested.

Lucas says many offenders forget to come to court and wind up being jailed on a bench warrant.

"We're looking at creating some type of automated system where it calls you or texts you reminding you to remember court tomorrow to show up at ten o'clock," Lucas explained. "There's just better ways of doing this that we've known about but it costs money."

Lucas says that money may soon be coming.
The county is hoping to qualify for up two $2 million dollars from the MacArthur foundation to put its plan into action to reduce the African American jail population.

Lucas says if that additional grant money comes through the jail population reduction program could start in July of next year.

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