South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier of Charleston on the deadly prison riot in April:
It’s been more than five months since seven inmates were killed and 22 were injured in rioting at Lee prison, but no charges have been filed and there’s not even an agreement on who will prosecute the cases. That’s unacceptable.
State Law Enforcement Division investigators should have had enough time to identify and charge at least some of the attackers. The S.C. Attorney General Office’s also should step up to prosecute the cases directly or supply 3rd Circuit Solicitor Chip Finney with any help he needs.
But authorities apparently still don’t have a game plan for prosecuting those responsible for the carnage during the nation’s deadliest prison riot in 25 years. As reported Sept. 7 by The Post and Courier’s Gregory Yee, Mr. Finney said his office didn’t have the resources to handle such a complex case involving multiple defendants. He said his office was working with SLED, the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office on how to proceed. But that was nearly a month ago.
Robert Kittle of the Attorney General’s Office said his office was waiting for SLED and the Department of Corrections to wrap up separate investigations before filing charges or presenting them to a grand jury. SLED is handling the criminal investigation while the DOC looks at the root causes of the violence. And while the agencies sort all this out, the killers go unpunished.
It’s important to find out why the melee happened and how such events can be avoided in the future. But prosecutors shouldn’t have to wait on the results of the DOC investigation led by former Texas prisons director Brad Livingston. It’s unclear how far along SLED is with its investigation or what it might need to move things along.
While it would be tidy to prosecute all the cases in one fell swoop, SLED investigators should proceed with individual cases as soon as they have enough evidence to do so. The men who were killed and their families should be accorded the same level of justice as any victim.
Perhaps some of the suspects are among the 48 problem inmates moved to a private prison in Mississippi after the April 15 riot. If that is a factor impeding the SLED investigation, surely the DOC can find a place to house them more convenient to investigators.
Compiling evidence against multiple murder suspects is no doubt time consuming, but investigators should already have some pretty strong evidence in the form of video surveillance from inside the prison.
Only one of the inmates killed — Damonte Rivera, 24, who was convicted of a 2012 murder in Georgetown — was ineligible for parole. The six others had their eventual shot at freedom dashed during a riot that took about seven hours to bring under control.
The state owes these men justice. SLED Chief Mark Keel and Attorney General Alan Wilson need to assure the public and the families of those killed that the culprits will be prosecuted soon. In the meantime, prisons chief Bryan Stirling has plenty of hard work to do to make South Carolina prisons safer and more humane.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on state officials’ roles in the non-car infrastructure:
Building functional, effective and safe transportation infrastructure in South Carolina with its rapidly growing population and diverse rural and urban environments is a challenge.
So rather than taking risks with untested ideas, the state Department of Transportation generally relies on widely accepted best practices. That’s reasonable enough, except that the notion of “best practices” can be awfully subjective.
What’s best for cars traveling at high speeds is usually not what’s best for pedestrians, for example.
DOT looks at a variety of sources to come up with its Design Manual, a nearly 800-page collection of charts, definitions, formulas and blueprints that shape the way South Carolina builds and maintains its transportation infrastructure.
For those of us who aren’t traffic engineers, it’s all a bit impenetrable. But considering that about 70 percent of South Carolina roads are state-owned, few other documents matter as much in determining how residents move around.
There’s plenty of room for improvement.
South Carolina routinely ranks among the deadliest states for overall traffic fatalities. In 2016, only Alabama and Mississippi were more dangerous per capita, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
South Carolina also ranked No. 3 for the most pedestrian deaths per capita in 2016, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. It was the second-deadliest state for bicyclists that year. And the overwhelming majority of those fatalities occurred on state-owned roads.
But earlier this month, DOT officials announced that they would start incorporating a new set of guidelines by the National Association of City Transportation Officials into their design standards. NACTO puts a premium on “places for people” rather than just cars, and the suggestions in its Urban Street Design Guide could drive a significant shift in the way the state DOT thinks.
Similarly, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials guidelines — which form the basis for a lot of what the DOT does — were recently updated to offer more options for protected bike lanes, pedestrian crossings and other non-car infrastructure.
Both changes represent a welcome change of direction for organizations that have been rightly criticized as slow to adapt to shifts in transportation needs and preferences.
That’s good news for South Carolina residents who get around town on two feet or two wheels, even if just on occasion. And safer infrastructure could and should encourage more people to leave their cars behind for short trips.
Better guidelines ought to help cut down on car fatalities as well.
South Carolina should offer residents lots of safe transportation options. Smarter design guidelines are a big step on the right path. Now DOT just has to turn good ideas into good infrastructure.
Index-Journal of Greenwood on victims of deadly domestic violence:
Statistically speaking, South Carolina is doing better.
That said, the Palmetto State’s reputation remains severely tainted. Yes, our state is a beautiful one, offering wonderful stretches of shoreline and islands to the east, foothills to the west and wealth of wonderful attractions, such as those afforded visitors to our own Lakelands.
But there is a dark side to the state represented by its standing among the top 10 nationally in which domestic violence leads to death — most victims being women killed at the hands of a spouse or significant other.
On Tuesday, and for the 21st consecutive year, the state Attorney General’s Office remembered domestic violence victims with a Silent Witness ceremony on the Statehouse grounds.
At the ceremony, 29 women and 11 men who died last year as a result of domestic violence were honored and remembered. Life-sized silhouettes represented each of the 40. Each victim’s name was mentioned, as well as the manner in which they died. A 41st silhouette represented unknown victims.
In 2016, the Violence Policy Center reported that 48 women were killed by men whose hands should have been gentle and caring, not used to kill.
Laws have gotten tougher, the state’s numbers have improved and many prosecutors, such as our own 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo, have focused their efforts on convicting those who commit domestic violence crimes. Even after 21 years of ceremonies at the Statehouse and all the other efforts that have been made going forward, South Carolina must do better.
As is the case with so many behaviors, domestic violence is, sadly, often a learned and mirrored behavior. Reducing the number of cases will require breaking the cycle in homes, it will require education, character building and support for those who are victims. It will also require continued vigilance on the part of law enforcement, prosecutors and our judicial system.