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Rates for criminals reoffending drops to 25-year low in South Carolina

New data shows the state has one of the lowest rates of inmates recommitting crimes once released.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — New data shows South Carolina has one of the lowest rates of inmates recommitting crimes once released. 

According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, there's a 21.9% chance inmates will recommit a crime once released.

When Cary Sanders was 17-years-old, he was sentenced to nine years at the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

"I was in the Department of Juvenile Justice three different times and arrested 17 different times by my 17th birthday," said Sanders. "Soon after my 17th birthday, I shot someone during an armed robbery."

He says during his time inside, his mentality and his behavior changed due to the help he received.

"I remember a lot of years, I sat in my prison cell and looked out the window and couldn't see past the prison wire," he said.

Now, the inside program director for Jump Start, a faith-based rehabilitation program helping inmates reintegrate back into society, he says the help he received inside gave him the life skills he needed to succeed.

"Changed my shift in my thinking which shifted my behavior," he said.

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Credit: Cary Sanders

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According to data from the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the state's recidivism rate is one of the lowest in the country. 

State Corrections Director Bryan Stirling says investing in prisoners helps prevent reoffending.

"We have ways for them to find housing, we have job training, we have education, we have anger management," said Stirling. "They're going to come back to a great cost to taxpayers, a great societal cost for the crime they committed against their victims. So, its tremendously important these folks take advantage of these programs so they don't come back."

Hayden Smith, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice says older people are less likely to recommit. "19-25 year old's had a recidivism rate of about 90%," said Smith.

He says COVID-19 is one of the reasons, prisons and jails are seeing decreased numbers, "We have the lowest incarnation rate right now since about 1991."

"We want to make sure we give those inmates being released the best possible chances for success."