Charleston Co. grant aimed at reducing jail population

The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is the recipient of a $640,000 capstone grant.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:57 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:44 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is the recipient of a $640,000 capstone grant to continue progress toward reducing the jail population and addressing inequalities in the justice system.

Since 2015, the capstone grant, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is the last of $6.177 million invested in Charleston County as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge.

After implementing new strategies and policies, Charleston County has reduced the jail population by over 40% at the end of 2021 compared to 2014.

The over $600,000 grant is what Ellen Steinberg, director of the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council calls a wind-down grant; the funds with help them continue to work on improving the criminal justice system and community wellbeing.

“We want to talk about public safety and community well-being,” Steinberg says. “What is the health of our criminal justice system? What can we do to make it a more fair, just equitable system? This grant is a reflection on Charleston County, that not only have we started, but we’re continuing to move in the right direction. We are so proud that we got this grant.”

The money invested is part of a $323 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial inequity in criminal justice systems.

The council is holding a community forum on April 18 and is holding four Zoom forums this year, with the first last week focusing on what your rights are as a victim of a crime.

“We are all working together and the top of our concerns are looking at community wellbeing, public safety, justice and equity and fairness for all,” Steinberg says.

According to a news release, the following strategies are used to reduce the jail population:

  • Building a robust data warehouse combining data from across the criminal justice system
  • Prioritizing alternatives to jail for lower-level charges most frequently booked and that disparately impacted communities of color
  • Supporting law enforcement’s increasing use of community-based services like the TriCounty Crisis Stabilization Center so people can get the help they need without falling deeper into the criminal justice system
  • Supporting efforts to make consistent improvements in the earliest stages of case processing including assigning attorneys faster and more efficiently transfer of evidence
  • Instituting Public Defender attorneys in Bond Court to ensure indigent defendants are afforded the right to counsel
  • Automated court text reminders for General Sessions Court
  • Implementing the use of Pretrial Analysts to provide the Court with Pretrial Service Reports (PSR), which produce an objective and reliable way to assess for risk of rearrests and/or failure to appear.