Prison-focused grant wants to increase resources for inmates

Grant aimed at reducing prison population

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)- A Columbia-based law firm received a grant aimed at reducing prison population. The South Carolina Appleseed Justice Center works on issues that impact the lower income community.

The $215,000 grant will be paid out over a 2 year period and will help increase resources inside for inmates so they can be successful on the outside.

The director of the Appleseed Justice Center explained why the grant is necessary in increasing prison population. “We’re hurting all of society when we’re spending all this money putting people behind a wall and not figuring out how we can help them get out get the services they need and the training they need and making sure when they get out they’re successful that’s good for everyone,” said Sue Berkowitz.

The grant will focus on preventing repeat offenders and look at the factors that play a role in a person committing a crime.

Nelson-Mullins Law Firm gave the grant to Appleseed Justice Center to help them continue their mission. One of the partners on the project, Stuart Andrews, talked about some of those factors that set inmates up to fail after being released.

“A lot of fundamental issues like housing, like substance abuse, like mental health services, like job preparation have to be addressed for the conditions that created the vulnerability for the crimes to have occurred in the first place or likely to reoccur,” explained Andrews.

But before prisoners can be released, there’s work that should be done on the inside, like providing services for mental health and substance abuse. Both practices say that’s another piece of the puzzle in making reentry successful.

Andrews added, “Only by investing resources in the care and preparation for a successful reentry in the community are we going to lower recidivism rates and increase the likelihood that folks will be successful and not continue to commit a crime.”

Sue Berkowitz with Appleseed reiterated Andrews’ sentiments. “We can always build more prisons but that is an incredibly expensive way to deal with crime, or we can be dealing with it in a way that helps people come back into society get a job, pay taxes, have a place to live.. that benefits everybody.”

The state pays around 15 thousand dollars per inmate and right now there’s just under 20 thousand inmates incarcerated in the state.