Former SCDOC director says hope comes first, rehabilitation second

LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The former director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections said that without giving inmates serving life sentences hope for release, rehabilitation can't always be achieved.

Jon Ozmint served as director of the Department of Corrections from 2003 until 2011 and said while programs are available to inmates, many serving life sentences have no incentive to take part.

"Why would any of these programs matter to them? If they have no hope, what is the incentive to take part in any kind of rehabilitation?," Ozmint said.

Ozmint said the inmates involved in Sunday night's deadly riots represent a small subset of the prison population.

"The gang bangers involved in that fight only really account for like 20 percent of the overall prison population," Ozmint said. "80 percent of inmates do their time, have a chance at release and stay in their cells."

Ozmint admits a lack of funding and being severely understaffed is a major problem within Lee Correctional and can contribute to agitation amongst inmates.  He said doing away with life sentences with no possibility of release, aside from those whose crime fits the bill, would allow inmates to have a sense of hope.

"I don't want to live in a society where we don't give people any glimmer of hope," Ozmint said. "I think in general that's bad for society."

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