Report: Number of SC prisoners drops, saves money
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A new report says South Carolina's prison population fell almost 3 percent in one year, saving taxpayers more than $5 million.
The State newspaper reported that sentencing reform is to credit for the savings. A 2010 law strengthened penalties for violent crimes while offering alternative sentences for nonviolent offenses.
A report from the state Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee says nonviolent offenders now make up 34 percent of the state's prisoners, compared to more than half in 2002.
Now lawmakers are arguing over how to spend those savings with some wanting part to go to the Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole Services. The number of people on probation has grown by 8 percent since 2010. Others say the agency should be merged with the state Department of Corrections.
Sanford attending town hall on immigration reform
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford is making good on a promise to have more discussions about immigration reform.
The 1st District congressman met with members of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition in Beaufort last month and agreed to attend one of the group's town hall meetings. Sanford will attend a town hall Sunday on Hilton Head Island.
Sanford opposed a bill the U.S. Senate pasted in June to increase border security and create a 13-year wait for citizenship for the 11 million people in the national illegally.
Sanford said the cost is an important issue for him and told members of the group last month he would like to learn more about their concerns so he would attend their meeting.
SC sugar cane used to make Charleston rum
ST. GEORGE, S.C. (AP) - In a state with an appetite for alcohol, a Charleston distiller is using sugar cane grown in South Carolina to make a rum not widely produced in the United States.
Last week workers gathered on a farm in Dorchester County and stoked up an almost 100-year-old sugar cane press to produce about 1,000 gallons of cane juice that High Wire Distilling Co. will use to make rhum agricole (RUM AG rah cohle).
That's a type of rum made on the French-speaking islands in the Caribbean. It's made with sugar cane juice, as opposed to most rums made with refined sugar or molasses.
According to federal figures, per capital alcohol consumption in South Carolina is third highest in the South - behind only Louisiana and Florida.
COAST GUARD TRIAL
SC Coast Guardsman gets 8-year sentence
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A Coast Guardsman based in Charleston will spend eight years behind bars after being found guilty of several charges, including rape of a civilian woman and other unlawful acts involving six female members of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard said in a news release that 35-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Gomez was sentenced Saturday. He also received a reduction in pay to the lowest enlisted rank and a dishonorable discharge.
The Coast Guard said the crimes occurred between August 2011 and September 2012 while Gomez was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin. Locations of the crimes include aboard the Gallatin and four other ships.
The trial was held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in North Charleston.
13th annual cycle ride brings Christmas to VA vets
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The 13th annual Veterans Christmas Charity Ride is roaring through Columbia.
Sunday's parade was expected to draw about 3,500 riders. Riders with police escorts were to parade through the city to the Dorn VA Medical Center in southeastern Columbia, where volunteers are helping unload trailers with gifts for veterans at the Veterans Administration center and at two homeless shelters.
Carolina Honda owner Jim Wertman and Gene Royer of All American Heating and Air started the event. They say they want to provide a holiday for all veterans, but particularly those in need who don't have family members to visit them.
Managing editor of Greenville News retiring
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - The managing editor whose work includes coverage that led to a landmark South Carolina Supreme Court ruling is retiring from The Greenville News at the end of the month.
The newspaper reported Sunday that Chris Weston's retirement ends a 37-year career at the newspaper that included shepherding the newspaper's coverage of a University of South Carolina foundation. The case, Weston v. Carolina Research and Development Foundation, opened USC foundation records to public scrutiny and protected taxpayers' right to know how their money gets spent.
Weston arrived at The News in 1976 as a regional reporter. He worked as state capital correspondent, Washington correspondent and special projects editor before becoming managing editor, a post he held for two decades.
He's a South Carolina native and University of South Carolina graduate.
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