Haley announces new corrections, juvenile justice chiefs

William Byars
William Byars
Margaret Barber
Margaret Barber
Jon Ozmint
Jon Ozmint

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley has picked a former Family Court judge to lead the state's prisons and a longtime administrator at the Juvenile Justice Department to take over that agency.

Haley announced her choices Thursday of William Byars, who is the current director of the Juvenile Justice Department, to lead the state Corrections Department and Margaret Barber, Byars' chief of staff, to take over Juvenile Justice.

Byars takes over for current SCDC director, Jon Ozmint. Ozmint has served in that role since 2003.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice are next-door neighbors off Broad River Road. So, Byars commute isn't much different. But running the adult prison system could be an imposing challenge for the former circuit judge, especially since the agency is running a multi-million dollar deficit.

"One of the things they told us in law school was the most important thing was to ask the right questions," said Byars, "And so I am going to begin to ask the questions to see what can be done -- not only to do it efficiently but to do it effectively. To see what we can do to lower the recidivism rate, to lower the number of people we're having to incarcerate."

Byars has headed the Department of Juvenile Justice for eight years. He has a reputation for turning around an agency in such turmoil in the mid-90's that federal authorities stepped in to provide oversight.

Haley says one of her goals for Byars involves reducing the inmate population. "Let's not just talk about the price of meals, let's talk about how many meals we're having to give, and let's bring that number down," said Governor-Elect Haley.

Byars says he also wants to merge Corrections with Probation Parole and Pardon Services. "One of the reasons the Department of Juvenile Justice was a success and could do things was we were at the front end of the system so to speak, from the time the charges were brought, all the way through incarceration -- all the way through probation," said Byars.

Barber was named chief of staff at the agency in 2007.

"What Judge Byars and Margaret Barber have done at DJJ is one of the biggest success stories in the country," said Gov.-elect Haley. "They are innovative leaders who work hard and know that government must understand the value of a dollar, and they are committed to improving lives by strengthening both of these critical state agencies."

Governor Mark Sanford appointed former Family Court Judge William R. Byars, Jr., a Vietnam Veteran and University of South Carolina School of Law graduate, as the Director of DJJ in January 2003.  Judge Byars has overseen a staff of over 1,300 that serves approximately 20,000 juveniles annually.

"I want to thank Gov.-elect Haley for the opportunity to serve, and I have been delighted to hear her vision," said Judge Byars.

In 1999, Judge Byars received South Carolina's highest civilian award, "The Order of the Palmetto" for leadership in juvenile justice and children's law reform.

A Winthrop graduate, Margaret Barber has served as DJJ chief of staff since 2007. Prior to that, she was DJJ Upstate Regional Administrator from 1999 – 2007 and DJJ York County Director from 1993 – 1999.

"Judge Byars and I have shared the passion for children and their families in South Carolina for a number of years," said Ms. Barber. "We have run DJJ very much like a family. We're positive about what we've been doing and I want to continue that. I thank the governor-elect for giving me that opportunity."

Byars and Barber are Haley's third and fourth announced Cabinet picks. The state Senate must confirm all nominees.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.