Certain inmates in SC would be released sooner if this bill passes

Published: Apr. 23, 2018 at 10:30 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 24, 2018 at 6:24 AM EDT
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(Source; WIS)
(Source; WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Pushing for prison change, the fight to address the way South Carolina inmates serve time for certain charges is set to ignite inside the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Advocates for House bill H. 5155 want a new law to reform sentencing. Erica Fielder began her push for change years ago and is still fighting her advocacy group, "Hearts for Inmates." Her husband, Lewis Fielder, is serving time for voluntary manslaughter at Broad River Correctional now. 

Fielder's petition for reform has more than 21,000 signatures. She told WIS she is pushing for change on behalf of thousands of inmates unable to advocate for themselves. 

"We have people who are fighting for our animals more so than people who are willing to support those who are incarcerated," said Erica Fielder. "We all fall short. Sin is sin. I tell people that are victims, too, sometimes victims that are never heard."

Among the many things H. 5155 would do, it would lessen the minimum time a long-serving inmate must spend behind bars on their sentence, for things like drug charges and nonviolent crimes. The bill, if passed, would d rop the time served before automatic release to 65 percent instead of 85 percent of the sentence. There would also be more credit days for good behavior, work, and education. Prison staff would have to make a care plan for parole-eligible inmates so that they are rehabilitated and the chances of recidivism are lowered. 

Fielder said it's about giving inmates an incentive, and hope, to change and better their lives on the other side. However, not everyone agrees with that. The South Carolina Crime Victims' Council does not support the bill. Laura Hudson says it would undermine victims' sense of justice. 

"I think people are not looking at how the crime victim feels. It's all about how as defense attorneys, these people often make their lives easier and I just don't agree with that," said Hudson, "and if you've made a contract with a crime victim for a certain amount of time, that's what that person should serve."

'Hearts for Inmates' is set to rally at the State House in support of prison reform on Saturday, April 28.

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