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Afghan officials tour S.C. prisons

Fifteen Afghans touring S.C. prisons this week have struggled to understand why so many people are in jail in the state.

South Carolina has about 3.5 million residents, and 24,000 people locked up. In comparison, Afghanistan has 25 million citizens but just 11,000 inmates.

"We'd like to know why this is so much higher," said Gen. Abdul Salam Ismat, who runs the Afghan prison system.

Ismat is one of 15 Afghan officials touring S.C. Department of Corrections facilities this week as part of a U.S. State Department program.

On Wednesday morning, the Afghan prison officials questioned S.C. prisons director Jon Ozmint about running safe, efficient facilities and then toured the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution for Women.

Ozmint explained how laws requiring mandatory sentences for crimes have caused prison populations to increase since 1992.

The Afghan prison officials used interpreters to ask questions about vocational and educational programs, human rights and money. They often questioned ideas that seemed strange when compared with their culture.

The question about a husband's "rights" when his wife is in prison caused a bit of confusion.

Ozmint made sure he understood exactly what the visitor was asking before answering.

"No contact visits. No conjugal visits," Ozmint said. "I think that's what he's asking."

The question was repeated.

"We just don't want any more babies," Ozmint said. "That's all."

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