SC lawmaker, sheriff want to renew chain gangs - FOX Carolina 21

SC lawmaker, sheriff want to renew chain gangs

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Wright and Chumley's proposed legislation would affect South Carolina inmates. (File/FOX Carolina) Wright and Chumley's proposed legislation would affect South Carolina inmates. (File/FOX Carolina)

A modern version of the chain gang could make a comeback in the Upstate and across South Carolina if a local sheriff and lawmaker have their way.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright has made the recommendation many times in the past few years and his suggestion is now gaining political support.

State Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, said he is sponsoring the bill that is currently in the drafting stage.

Wright has been a vocal critic of the justice system and wants to make changes.

"If our prisoners are living better than our soldiers....then we have a problem," Wright said.

He said he is not trying to bring the chain gang back the way it was in the 1960s and early 1970s, but to use it to deter criminals.

"I am trying to bring it back to make someone be in our system only five years instead of 15 years," Wright said.

With Chumley's support, they are both looking at how they can use inmates to do labor across the state to save money.

"We've got miles and miles of highway that need things done to them," Chumley said. "We have had situations where we are subcontracting work to out of town and out of state to do mowing and cleaning for us."

To get the bill moved forward, Chumley said he is working with lawmakers across the aisle, including a Democratic representative in the State House who he said sees a need for change too.

Wright said he doesn't want violent offenders being put on the chain gangs, but rather people who commit lower level, nonviolent crimes, such as larceny.

"You work somebody six days a week, 12 hours a day, they don't have time to sit around and think about how to be stupid anymore," Wright said.

The state already has a prisoner work program were minimum security inmates perform light work, but only a few inmates are involved and it is voluntary.

There is no word yet when the bill will be proposed to state lawmakers.

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