SC leaders say new program will cut nation’s lowest reincarceration rate even more

Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 7:20 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2023 at 7:53 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A decade ago, about a third of inmates released from South Carolina prisons were back behind bars within three years.

Now the state’s recidivism rate has plummeted to 17%, the lowest in the nation, and the head of South Carolina’s prison system is confident the number of repeat criminal offenders should soon drop even further.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Corrections announced a new partnership that it says will reduce crime and make South Carolinians safer without costing a cent to the state’s taxpayers.

“This not only will transform that person that was incarcerated. This is going to transform their family. This is going to transform their community. This will transform their county. This will also transform the state,” Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.

The Department of Corrections is partnering with the nonprofit Concordance to bring a reentry program and center to South Carolina.

The voluntary, 18-month program starts before inmates are released from prison and then works with them after release through job training, education, substance use and mental health treatment, and more.

“If you can’t heal someone first, then a lot of the other things that we offer don’t really matter,” Concordance Chairman and CEO Danny Ludeman said.

The South Carolina center will be located in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, where one in five South Carolina inmates moves after their release, with a projected March 2024 opening, according to SCDC.

“We’re going to have conversations later about where else we can go with this,” Stirling said, adding about 6,000 inmates are released from South Carolina’s prisons annually.

This is the first center Concordance has planned outside its home state of Missouri, where it has seen a 56% reduction in the reincarceration rate among the 1,600 people who have come through the program.

“Our evidence-driven model has broken the generational cycle of incarceration. Approximately 60% of crime in this country is committed by formerly incarcerated individuals,” Ludeman said.

Concordance approached the South Carolina Department of Corrections to be the first state with which it is partnering in its nationwide expansion because of the success Stirling and his staff have had in reducing recidivism.

South Carolina leaders believe this will shrink the nation’s lowest reincarceration rate even more.

“If you have a loved one that is incarcerated, if you would tell them about this program, encourage them to get in this program, you will change their lives,” Stirling said.

Wells Fargo has committed to donating up to $60 million as Concordance plans to open 40 centers across the country in the coming years, which is why this center is coming at no cost to South Carolina taxpayers.