Last year a group of Spartanburg citizens met with Sheriff Chuck Wright a few times to discuss this bill.  Folks like me, Doug Cobb, Rep. Chumley … it was a great networking opportunity and we all  learned a lot and everyone had some great input.  I’m glad to see it will finally be introduced in Columbia!


Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright has helped craft a bill that would allow non-violent offenders to receive a reduced prison sentence in exchange for working a full-time job maintaining state and county roads under supervision.

The 40-hour-per-week jobs would involve picking up trash, mowing grass, repairing potholes and doing other roadway maintenance work. So instead of an offender being sentenced to 15 years in prison, he or she might be granted a three- to five-year sentence in the state work program.

Wright, who said he has worked on the bill for quite some time with state Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Reidville, plans to announce details of the proposed legislation at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

“I’m very proud about this, because I prayed about it more than two years ago but it wasn’t right, the timing wasn’t good,” Wright said. “I want to be able to tell the people, ‘Look, we’re tired of raising our taxes to build prisons.’ This will help us save so much money and teach people a good work ethic.”

Chumley is expected to introduce the bill in Columbia this week. The two said after working on the bill for several years, they have bipartisan support and more than 40 co-sponsors.

“This could improve someone’s feeling of their own self and self-worth,” Chumley said. “If we can reduce that sentence and work that off, they would be contributing to the cause, too, plus they would be able to go back to their families sooner.”

Many S.C. Department of Corrections facilities are at or over capacity and are dealing with a staffing shortage and struggling to retain new officers.

Tyger River Correctional Institution in Spartanburg County is one of the most over-populated prisons in the state. As of Friday, Tyger River had 1,164 inmates in general population, though the facility is designed for a maximum of 1,025. More than 160 prisoners were in cells with three beds.

Recidivism, or the rate at which offenders return to prison after being released, is about 23 percent in South Carolina. That means about 9,500 prison inmates who are released from prison return there within three years.

 Getting inmates out of prison sooner has the potential to ease the burden on South Carolina taxpayers, Wright said.

 Chumley said it cost the state about $20,000 each year to house an inmate in prison.“This is not the chain gang. The chain gang was inhumane and brutal. It didn’t want to teach, it just wanted to punish,” Wright said. “If we put crews out there, this will give the judge another tool.”

Supervisors who mistreat or abuse inmates could be charged with a misdemeanor under the proposed legislation. Inmates working on roadways would wear GPS monitors and could only be in groups of five.

Wright said this is the most involved he has been in crafting a piece of legislation since taking office in 2005.

A second news conference will be held in Columbia on Tuesday to recognize the bill’s co-sponsors.

“The people have wanted something like this for a while,” Chumley said. “We’re trying to solve a problem with a new way of thinking.”

and a video from the Press Conference (unmute in bottom right corner so you can hear)

Posted by Chuck Wright on Sunday, January 21, 2018