Prison tour offers sobering glimpse of life behind bars for first-time offenders
PHOTO CUTLINE: Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone speaks Thursday to a group of 18 Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) participants at the Allendale Correctional Institution in Fairfax. The prison tour is part of the diversionary program’s mandatory requirements. The Solicitor’s Office selects first-time, non-violent offenders to participate in the PTI program in hopes of discouraging future contact with the criminal justice system.
FAIRFAX, SC (April 28, 2015) – Men convicted of murder, armed robbery and other felonies shared their stories Thursday from inside the Allendale Correctional Institute with a group of first-time offenders as part of the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office’s Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program.
Eighteen PTI participants – ranging in ages from 17 to 71 -- from Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties toured the Level 2 facility where they had the opportunity to see and speak with inmates who offered up an accurate, realistic account of life from inside one of the state’s 23 prisons.
“You can’t describe this particular prison tour experience. It’s something that has be seen and heard first hand,” said Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. While each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits has PTI, Stone’s circuit began instituting the prison tour component in 2006. “Our goal is to prevent the next generation of career criminals.”
The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit’s PTI program has an 86 percent success rate, meaning that only 14 percent are rearrested. Stone credits the program’s success, in-part, because of the prison tour.
PTI is a diversionary program in South Carolina designed for first-time offenders charged with non-violent offenses (e.g.: disorderly conduct, various driving offenses, shoplifting, and possession of marijuana or cocaine, etc.). The PTI program requires a prison tour, community service and other programs specific to the criminal charge, such as alcohol education. Participants only have one shot at PTI anywhere in the state and must closely adhere to the program’s requirements in order to be successful.
Inmates at the Allendale prison who are a part of Operation Behind Bars described how escalating behaviors landed them behind bars, some for life.
One inmate said that he robbed and shot a man while high.
“I’m serving a total of 61 years,” he said. “I can’t be a father to my children. I can’t protect them and that’s my fault.”
Sitting knee to knee, the inmates and PTI participants were asked to look at each other and describe what they saw. “Tired” and “emptiness” were two answers.
“I see myself,” said one young man.
Another inmate who will never be paroled and has been incarcerated for the past 26 years had this to say: “A life of crime is not a life.”
To learn more about the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit’s PTI program, visit www.scsolicitor14.org.