COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Gov. Henry McMaster wants state lawmakers to crack down on repeat criminal offenders.

The governor used a chunk of his annual State of the State speech Wednesday night to focus on a problem that has plagued the state for years — people suspected or convicted of committing violent crimes who get out of jail on bond or are paroled from prison only to resume a life of violence.

“Our law enforcement officers know who the repeat criminals are,” McMaster said. “They commit over 80% of the crimes.”

Just this week, a 30-year-old Pawleys Island man out of jail on bond after being accused of a double-murder in May 2021 allegedly shot and killed a 19-year-old man on Meadow Street in Georgetown County. Now, Ryan Woodruff is back in the Georgetown County Detention Center facing another murder charge.

And that’s just one example.

In 2021, News13 looked at more than 100 shooting cases that happened during the first five months of the year to see how often those who were charged with murder or attempted murder were already out on bond. It found several instances in which people accused after violent crimes were released on bond and then arrested again in connection with other shootings. 

“Law enforcement needs our help,” McMaster said. “They need stronger laws to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and juveniles, and new laws to ‘close the revolving door’ and keep career criminals behind bars and not out on bond.”

In his speech, McMaster called on lawmakers to pass a law requiring an automatic mandatory five-year sentence with no early release or parole for anyone who commits a crime while out on bond.

McMaster also pointed out that the current state law does not have graduated criminal penalties for illegal gun possession.

“That means the penalty is the same no matter how many times the criminal gets caught, which provides no deterrent,” he said. “Graduated felony penalties, with no bond, will help keep repeat criminals behind bars and not out on bail where they can commit more crimes.”

15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said he supports McMaster’s plan to address repeat criminals.

“People committing crimes over and over again create a lot of havoc,” Richardson said. “They just can’t get right and should be removed from society.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, argues that just because someone is out on bond doesn’t necessarily mean they committed a crime.

“If you’re out on bond, you are waiting for your trial,” said Jace Woodrum, executive director for ACLU of South Carolina. “So we really don’t believe that we should be locking people up and throwing away the key when they haven’t been convicted of any crime.”

McMaster also proposed establishing minimum standards for court-ordered GPS or electronic monitoring and imposing penalties on “shady” bail bondsmen who don’t maintain electronic monitoring or fail to report bond violations to the courts.

The governor also continued his push for the resumption of capital punishment in the state.

“We have no means to carry out a death sentence in South Carolina – and the murderers know it,” he said.  

He said the lawmakers need to enact a so-called shield law to protect the identities of companies that make the drugs used for lethal injections.

“The Department of Corrections has been unable to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection since 2011 because the companies which make the drugs will not sell them unless their identities are shielded by state law from anti-death penalty activists,” McMaster said. “Fourteen states have enacted such a shield law. Director Bryan Stirling and I have asked the General Assembly to address this for over five years.” 

In December, Republican state Sen. Greg Hembree, who represents District 28 covering parts of Horry and Dillon counties pre-filed a bill that would do just that.

“We have not been able to use lethal injection as a means of execution in South Carolina for over 10 years because we haven’t been able to get the drugs,” Hembree said.

Currently, executions in the state are on hold, awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court concerning the use of the electric chair and firing squad as alternative means of carrying out executions.

“We must give these grieving families and loved ones the justice and closure they are owed by law and tell the people of South Carolina that their government believes in the rule of law – just like they do,” McMaster said.

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.