Palmetto Opinion

Editorials from around SC: foster children, prison industries, school adequacy deadline

Prisoners at the Lee Correctional Institution make the uniforms for all the inmates in the SC prison system.
Prisoners at the Lee Correctional Institution make the uniforms for all the inmates in the SC prison system. tdominick@thestate.com

Children in foster care

There is no erasing the damage done over the years to some foster children in South Carolina. But the Department of Social Services has made impressive progress toward ensuring that those things will not happen again.

Several things have spurred the DSS to action:

The Senate DSS Oversight Committee drilled down on the agency last year and found caseloads were onerous, children in the system had been neglected or mistreated (some had died), and the director was uncooperative when asked to produce pertinent data.

Some child advocacy groups sued DSS on behalf of 11 children they say were variously abused, overmedicated, separated from their siblings, kept in solitary confinement and fed moldy food. The suit also contends DSS had an inadequate number of foster homes and that foster children’s basic health care needs were not being tended to. …

The Legislature must provide the money DSS needs to protect and care for some of the state’s most vulnerable children. More than 3,000 children are enrolled in the foster care system.

And DSS must see that no more foster children in South Carolina are harmed by the system. The plans presented to the court are a good place to start. They should be made operational as soon as possible, along with solutions to the other problems addressed in the pending lawsuit.

Post & Courier

Charleston

Inmate work program

Start with the obvious: It is good for inmates in the South Carolina prison system to work, for many reasons. From there, however, controversy has entered the picture because of practices that some legislators have claimed exploit incarcerated workers and deals that some private businesses have protested as creating unfair competition.

Greenville News writer Tim Smith brought much-needed attention to the issue of inmate work programs in a series of stories last month that looked at how prisoners were compensated and how some businesses stood to gain a competitive advantage by using those inmates.

The most immediate result after Smith’s stories is that three businesses that used inmates for labor at a wage of $2 per hour must now pay at least minimum wage. That’s as it should be, because those three businesses were getting prison labor at a rate that put them at a competitive advantage and was hurting other businesses in the field. …

Legislators should review these programs to ensure they accomplish their goals without taking advantage of vulnerable inmates or hurting other companies.

Greenville News

School deadline

Thumbs down to the resistance the S.C. Supreme Court has gotten since it recently set a Feb. 1 deadline for legislation to improve the state’s public schools. In a joint letter Tuesday to the court, Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh K. Leatherman Jr. of Florence and House Speaker Jay Lucas of Hartsville said they will ignore the deadline because they believe the court overstepped its bounds. The court ruled in November that the state had failed to provide some students, especially those in poor, rural school districts, with a “minimally adequate” education.

“After spending two decades pondering the constitutionality of our existing system, the court expects the General Assembly to create a plan in a matter of months,” Lucas and Leatherman wrote, according to a report in The State newspaper. Leatherman said Tuesday the Senate will move forward at its own pace. “I intend for the Senate special committee to continue to work in an orderly fashion and come back with the best plan they can for the Senate to consider,” he said. “Can they accelerate that? Maybe. I want the answer, just like everyone, as soon as we can get it. But having said that, I want it as close as we can get it to the correct answer.”

But it isn’t as if the General Assembly hasn’t had time to figure this out. Nearly 11 months have passed since the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Morning News

Florence

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