Mayor's Panel on Violent Crime and Bond Reform presents options to council

Former SLED Chief Robert Stewart gives presentation to City Council
Former SLED Chief Robert Stewart gives presentation to City Council

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A panel created by Mayor Steve Benjamin to consider options for violent crime and bond reform presented a draft report to Columbia City Council Tuesday night.

Retired SLED Chief Robert Stewart, who is a member of the Mayor's Panel on Violent Crime and Bond Reform, gave the presentation. The panel is considering changing the way bond is set to prevent violent criminals who are out on bond from committing another crime.

One suggestion is making sure judges have enough information about a suspect's criminal history before they set bond.

"Judges can only act on what they know," Stewart told the council.

Among the recommendations: develop a system of risk assessment for suspects charged with violent crimes, requiring a representative from the police department at all bond hearings, and accessing a criminal database established by SLED after the 9/11 attacks.

"That's valuable information for a court to have to set bond," said Stewart.

The report also suggests setting up a database for gang affiliation and tracing money paid to a bail bondsman so that gang members could not post bond for one of their associates.  The report also suggests discontinuing the practice of allowing a percentage of bond to be posted rather than the full bond amount.

The report mentions Senate Bill 509, which would make it a crime to interfere with an electronic monitoring device. Currently in South Carolina, it is not a crime to remove or tamper with an electronic monitoring device that may was ordered by a court for supervising a suspect.

Mayor Benjamin says he expects a final report in a week.

The panel was created by Mayor Benjamin in July, after a man out on bond for several violent crimes was charged in the murder of 33-year-old Kelly Lynn Hunnewell.

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