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StraightTalk SC: Crime and Punishment

StraightTalk SC
Crime and Punishment: Thinking Outside the Cell

Presented in partnership with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman

Tuesdays: July 21, July 28, August 4, and August 11, 2015
Younts Conference Center, Shaw Hall, Furman University
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. each week

It is clear that something is broken in today’s criminal justice system. The massive growth in American prisons over the last four decades has burdened tax payers, overcrowded the prisons, and devastated vulnerable communities. Strong economic arguments as well as compelling compassionate reasons exist for why we can no longer maintain the status quo.

This year’s summer series examined the data around crime, incarceration and the impact of our existing system of justice on communities, discussed our state’s law enforcement and prison system practices in light of historical and contemporary contexts, and highlighted innovative programs that are being implemented in South Carolina.

To view biographies, click here.

All sessions were moderated by Mark Quinn (bio), director of member and public relations, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, and former host of SCETV’s Big Picture

July 21: Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Session One: Why the Broken System Matters

Heather Thompson, Ph.D. (bio), professor of history at the University of Michigan, has written and spoken extensively on mass incarceration, an issue that is receiving strong bipartisan support on the national level. Dr. Thompson will lay the groundwork for our series by providing historical context and data on the trends in incarceration as she describes who is in jail and why, what is wrong with our current system of incarceration, and why this matters to all of us.


Session Two:  A View From the Statehouse: It’s Time for Bipartisan Reform

Mark Quinn hosted a conversation with two SC legislators about what they are doing to improve justice in South Carolina.

Senator Gerald Malloy (bio) is a seasoned senator who chaired the Sentencing Reform Commission, drafted the bipartisan Sentencing Reform Act (2010), and serves as chair of the Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee which monitors the law’s implementation and generates new policy reforms. In June, he spoke on Capitol Hill about how these reforms have reduced prison growth and taxpayer costs while improving public safety.

Representative Tommy Pope (bio), Speaker Pro Tempore in the South Carolina House of Representatives, has been actively involved with a variety of committees in the House this past session, especially related to domestic violence and body camera legislation.  The former Solicitor for Union and York Counties, Representative Pope has over 25 years of law enforcement and prosecution experience.

July 28: Police, Prisons, and Public Safety

Session One: Law Enforcement: Protecting and Serving in Challenging Times

Mark Quinn hosted a conversation with community members and law enforcement officers looking at the challenges facing police and the communities which they serve.

Paton Blough (bio), a Greenville resident who has been arrested and sent to prison due to actions related to Bipolar I Disorder, ceaselessly works towards mental health reform in SC prisons and jails, such as his recent advocacy for the passing of the Mental Health Court Program Act, and teaching CIT training to local law enforcement. Paton has also nationally pushed for mental health reform in US prisons and jails by speaking at a number of events and briefings in Washington DC.

Darian Blue (bio), pastor of Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church, has met with many members of the African-American community and moderated local discussions around breaking down racial barriers. 

Leon Lott (bio), who was elected sheriff of Richland County in 1996, has turned the direction of the police department to Community Oriented Policing. Richland County is the only county in South Carolina that conducts internal investigations of police shootings (instead of through SLED), citing its internal crime lab and investigative expertise and pointing to the transparency of its 18 member citizens review board.

Greg Mullen (bio), Charleston Chief of Police, has been instrumental in implementing a number of strategic changes throughout the organization that have led to enhancements in the areas of crime reduction, excellence in policing, community support and outreach, and technology advancements. He has been the driving force behind Charleston Trinity, innovative initiatives that are improving relationships and opportunities for members of the community his department serves.

Glenn Smith (bio) is the Watchdog/Public Service Editor for The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. He is a veteran journalist who spent much of his career as a crime reporter. Smith is a member of the four-person team that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the George Polk Award and several other honors for their series on domestic violence in South Carolina, titled “Till Death Do Us Part.”  


Session Two: Doing Time in South Carolina: A Look Inside and Beyond the Prison Cell

Mental Illness and the South Carolina Prison System

Stuart Andrews, Jr. (bio), co-lead counsel with partner Dan Westbrook, successfully litigated against the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), presenting evidence that SCDC’s mental health system was constitutionally deficient in such areas as crisis intervention, solitary confinement, clinical staffing, record keeping, mental health screening, use of force, and medication administration. The abuses at SCDC were the subject of an article in The Atlantic, “When Good People Do Nothing: The Appalling Story of South Carolina’s Prisons.”

A View from the Inside: A Conversation hosted by Mark Quinn

Jerry Adger (bio), Director, SC Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services, brings a lifetime of expertise and experience in South Carolina law enforcement, juvenile justice, and adult corrections. Adger served as Inspector General for the South Carolina Department of Corrections from 2011-2015, where he was responsible for investigating all criminal activity that occurred within South Carolina’s prison system.

Bryan Stirling (bio), Director of the S.C. Department of Corrections since 2013 is working to make South Carolina’s prisons more efficient, effective, and safe. A graduate of USC School of Law, Stirling is the former chief of staff for the Haley Administration and served as deputy attorney general during the six years prior.

August 4: Creative Justice in the Courts

Session One: Rehabilitative Justice and the New War on Drugs

Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks (bio), U.S. District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, will present the promising and innovative rehabilitative justice and alternative sentencing program known as BRIDGE Court, which she implemented in Charleston in 2010.

Melia Carney graduated from the Bridge Program in November of 2013. She frequently visits Bridge on court days, and for other special events. Her work in Recovery helped her to repair her relationship with her daughter, from whom she was once estranged. Melia is now the proud grandmother of a beautiful baby boy, and has been clean for over three years.

William White graduated from Bridge in September of 2012. He continues to support the Program by visiting court hearings, and by sponsoring individual Bridge Participants. William remains active in the Recovery community, and has been clean for almost four years.


Session Two: Roundtable Discussion on Problem Solving Courts in South Carolina

Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks (bio)

Brent Metcalf (bio) is the U.S. Probation Officer overseeing the BRIDGE Program in Greenville. Metcalf also has significant experience teaching criminal justice courses at USC Upstate.

Judge Charles Simmons, Jr. (bio) is Special Circuit Court Judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit and Judge for the 13th Circuit Adult Drug Court for defendants charged with state drug crimes. He has assisted the BRIDGE Program in developing procedures for the program and providing compelling evidence to other federal judges that the BRIDGE program works.

August 11: Building Communities of Justice

   Click here to access the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership website.

Session One: Changing Lives Through Intervention

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles (bio) will present the challenges and successes of the Drug Market Intervention program, featured on Dateline NBC, which he has implemented in Conway, Aiken, North Charleston, and Columbia.


Session Two: Second Chances: Breaking Down Barriers to Reentry

Community Partners Making a Difference

Amy Barch (bio), founder, Turning Leaf Project, has been involved in corrections education and offender reentry work in varying capacities for the past six years.  From her work in ex-offender emergency and transitional services, jail education and advocacy, Amy has an in-depth knowledge of the complex challenges faced by this population. 

Laura Bogardus (bio) is knee deep in researching the factors that separate job seekers from good jobs. One particularly vexing barrier faced by many Americans is the impact of having a criminal record on housing, health, and employment opportunity, which she seeks to better understand and address through her research and community involvement.

Jerry Blassingame (bio), CEO of Soteria Community Development Corp., served 3 ½ years in prison for a drug conviction more than a decade ago. Blassingame is chair of the Greenville Reentry Coalition, a coalition of organizations seeking to help reentry of people with criminal backgrounds, also known as “returning citizens,” into the Greenville community.

Bruce Forbes (bio) is special projects manager, Community Economic Development Division, Sunbelt Human Advancement Resources, a community action agency that helps low-income people achieve self-reliance. The former chair of the Greenville Homeless coalition, Forbes has worked for 17 years helping the homeless and the poor transition to self-sufficiency.

Kirby Mitchell (bio), senior litigation attorney at South Carolina Legal Services’ Greenville office and Furman graduate, teaches Furman’s popular “Poverty and The Law” class and represents low-income clients in a wide variety of civil cases.

Why Hiring Ex-Offenders is Good for Business

Michele Sedney (bio) is the senior director for central recruitment services for The Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation. Johns Hopkins has received national recognition for its success in providing work opportunities for reentering citizens.  

The Summer Series is presented by The Riley Institute at Furman
and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman