SC State Criminal Justice Students Participate in Operation Behind Bars (OBB)

Monday, May 5, 2008

ORANGEBURG — SC State’s criminal justice program students and faculty recently visited Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C. The 22 SC State students gained realistic and personal views of life in prison in OBBSouth Carolina. Lieber, a level three male facility, is a high-security institution designed primarily to house violent offenders with longer sentences, and inmates who exhibit behavioral problems.

Housing consists of single and double cells, and all perimeters are double-fenced with extensive electronic surveillance. Inmates at level three facilities are closely supervised and their activities and movement within the institution are highly restricted. Lieber also maintains the ‘Death Row’ for the entire state.

Operation Behind Bars (OBB) is a program targeted toward at-risk youth and adults. The program allows them to tour a prison facility and then hear inmates give realistic accounts of actions that led to their criminal behavior, the effects of incarceration on themselves and their families as well as the impact of their crime on the victims and the community, and day-to-day life in prison. The SC State students had an opportunity to share lunch with the OBB inmates in their environment. The correctional officers added a degree of realism to the regimented life of inmates during the meal. They hovered over the students while timing them and shouting the amount of time they had to finish eating. The students also met with Lieber's warden, McKither Bodison and other staff to pose questions about the challenges of correctional administration. The program concluded by OBB inmates encouraging the students to share what they had seen and heard and to help dispel the false image of prison life perpetuated by the media. They also challenged the students to continue to make good choices and help make a positive difference in the criminal justice system.

“My experience at Lieber Correctional Institution was an eye opener to my life. The tour made me focus on making better choices and not take life for granted. I would never want to be in a place where I had no freedom or free will,” Cervantez Glenn, a junior criminal justice major said.

For more information on the SC State Criminal Justice Program, contact Margie Ballard-Mack at (803) 536-8791.