Issue

Criminal Justice

Bringing Collaboration to Criminal Justice

Having served as South Carolina’s first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Director and the state’s top Victim Advocate, I am deeply familiar with our criminal justice system—and its weaknesses. Recently, South Carolina was ranked #6 in the nation for women killed by men. The COVID-19 pandemic brought economic hardship, isolation and according to law enforcement reports–a foreseeable rise in domestic violence.

I’ve worked in the executive branch for Republican and Democrat administrations. Under my leadership, South Carolina’s Crime Victim Compensation Program received national recognition in the areas of fiscal responsibility and expanded access to services. Throughout my career, I’ve utilized a collaborative, bipartisan, multidisciplinary approach to help address domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other violent crimes against women and will continue to push for meaningful criminal justice reform.

While in the General Assembly, I sponsored the Transparency in Justice Act, which would finally make hate a crime in SC, ban no-knock warrants and police chokeholds, demilitarize the police, decriminalize marijuana, end qualified immunity for cops who kill civilians without justification and make other critical changes to our outdated criminal justice laws.

When a Black girl was violently thrown out of her desk by a School Resource Officer at a midlands high school and arrested in her classroom for allegedly not putting her cell phone away, I discovered that South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools law was used to send over 30,000 students from school to DJJ.

For too many SC students, this meant our public schools were the first stop on the school-to-prison pipeline because this law criminalized non-criminal classroom misbehavior. I introduced a bill to change that. With overwhelming bipartisan support, my Disturbing Schools bill passed in 2018. Now, SC students are no longer arrested in school unless they threaten or harm others or engage in criminal acts on school grounds or school property.

As Governor, I’ll continue to address the systemic factors that disproportionately impact black and brown people, as well as those that create unsafe environments for all South Carolinians.