Solicitor Wilson has been a leader in the Country and the State in creating initiatives to improve the criminal justice system for all involved. She has worked with members of all political parties and has enlisted people from every aspect of the system for help in making the system a better one. A few of her milestones are below.
★ First (and only) woman elected to the Office of Solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit ★ Law Enforcement Victim's Advocate Solicitor of the Year Award ★ South Carolina Victim Assistance Network's Criminal Justice Award for Outstanding Service to Victims ★ Department of Justice Director’s Award from Attorney General Janet Reno for Superior Performance by an Assistant United States Attorney (the highest award given by the Department of Justice to an AUSA) ★ Commissioner-- South Carolina Commission for Prosecution Coordination ★ Member-- State Child Fatality Advisory Committee
★ Vice President National District Attorneys Association ★
Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
Beginning in 2014 and into 2015, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson was a principal player in forming the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), a collaboration of elected and appointed officials, law enforcement leaders, judicial and court leadership, behavioral health professionals, various community leaders and many more, working to develop a transformation plan in order to safely drive down jail usage, address racial and ethnic disproportionality and/or disparity, and continually improve the local justice system. In pursuit of that goal, Scarlett helped the CJCC obtain initial “seed money” so that we could compete for a larger more comprehensive grant to safely reduce the jail population and to study race equity in our system. With her help, the CJCC landed a $2.25 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to implement reforms to reduce the jail population and create a more effective local criminal justice system. Charleston County was one of only 11 jurisdictions in the country chosen to receive significant funding and access to expert technical assistance to implement a plan for reform.
Solicitor Wilson and the CJCC have been working to help improve safety and justice in our community. They studied the local justice system and launched an initial strategic plan that led to impressive results. The utilization of the County jail for lower level non- violent offenses was reduced, increased use of cite and release in lieu of jail, more diversions from jail and deflections into treatment, and fewer familiar faces cycling through the jail repeatedly. An exhaustive examination into the setting of bonds led to the development of a risk instrument which in turn allowed for bond setting to become more just and informed.
By 2019, jail use in Charleston County was more closely utilized for its intended purpose, thereby reducing the harmful effects of unnecessary incarceration. For example, between 2014 and 2019:
The local jail population achieved a sustained reduction of 20%, from 1,111 to 888.
Local bookings, individuals booked, and charges reduced by roughly 50%.
Simple possession of marijuana dropped dramatically and is no longer the most frequently occurring charge booked.
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Community Based Prosecution
Scarlett developed a new agency-based prosecution structure, which pairs specific prosecutors to specific law enforcement agencies. This system has maximizes superior communications between investigators and prosecutors, and thus ensures all members of the team “remain in the loop” throughout a case. She created prosecutor positions for Senior Litigators so that law enforcement and less experienced prosecutors have a knowledgable resource for seeking advice during investigations and prosecutions. In addition, because prosecutors work cases from a specific location, they know the community.
Special Victims Unit for Children and Vulnerable Adults
Scarlett created a Special Victim’s Unit to handle cases involving children and vulnerable adults; the SVU includes both a dedicated investigator and a supervisory position for both Charleston and Berkeley Counties.
Locking the Revolving Door - Bonds
Scarlett has implemented procedures to do the prosecutor's part in locking the “revolving door” that allows habitual, dangerous offenders to post bond, then commit more crimes while awaiting trial. She helped draft and pass legislation to address this stubborn problem and she has created additional legislative proposals that mirror federal policy.
Scarlett implemented a new, aggressive murder docketing, which significantly increased the number of murderers brought to justice.
A Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims
Scarlett’s leadership can be seen throughout our community. She helped convince MUSC to create a more robust Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program so that rape victims would not have to sit for hours upon hours waiting to be seen. Besides being more “humane” this helps in better evidence collection and higher hopes of collecting DNA and securing convictions.
Berkeley County Drug Court
Scarlett launched the Berkeley County Drug Court. This is an effective, approach used by prosecutors and law enforcement throughout the nation. “Drug Court” is an alternative court which breaks the cycle of drug offender recidivism.
Domestic Violence Reforms
Early on in her tenure as Solicitor, Scarlett ended a virtual stalemate and helped create a centralized Criminal Domestic Violence Court, thus providing more protection for victims of family violence. Eventually, with changes in the law, Scarlett was able to bring these cases to General Sessions Court for a safer, more stringent environment. Recognizing that children who are exposed to domestic violence more often develop behavioral and emotional problems, suffer poor academic performance, and are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior themselves, Scarlett’s team joined with the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center to enact over 30 recommendations for the community and law enforcement to better protect children from CDV.
Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence
In addition, Scarlett and her team helped develop the Charleston County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. This is a multi-disciplinary team which seeks to enhance the safety of victims and the accountability of batterers. The Team does this by conducting detailed reviews of domestic fatalities and then preparing and publishing objective information gained from these reviews. The resulting information is used as a tool for identifying gaps in system responses, improving data collection, and implementing recommendations to create a coordinated community approach to ending domestic violence through enhancing efforts to train systems on better responses, identifying points for intervention and prevention, and providing a forum for increasing communication and collaboration throughout the community.
More recently, she and her team lead the Tri-County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC) which includes members from Charleston and Berkeley (and Dorchester ) government agencies, community organizations, educators, victim advocates, and faith-based leaders. The council seeks to increase community awareness regarding domestic violence prevention, victim support, and perpetrator accountability. It does this through creating a solid community network between its participating organizations, as well as pairing with other groups in order to educate the public about the dangers of domestic violence our area.
Officer Involved Critical Incident Protocol
For years, no organization in South Carolina had a written protocol or policy for handling officer involved critical incidents. Scarlett drafted a comprehensive plan for handling situations where citizens are injured in incidents with law enforcement. She was able to garner the support of many community leaders as well as state and local law enforcement in crafting a plan to keep the community informed as to the progress of these investigations and to establish a timeline for decisions.
Race Equity Work in the Solicitor's Office
In early 2015, Scarlett began improving data collection at the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in order to better identify and understand racial disparities in her office. Solicitor Wilson committed herself to correcting root causes of any disparities in her jurisdiction, and to ensure that her prosecutors made fair and consistent decisions. Once establishing processes and infrastructure for collecting data, Solicitor Wilson searched for funding and experts to measure and analyze the data. This year, those efforts paid off. With these partnerships and these experts, the Ninth Circuit is poised to lead the country in detecting and correcting bias. This sort of accountability will not only help the public, but the criminal justice system as a whole. We know that unconscious bias runs deep in every corner of this country – and we believe that this study will help identify and correct our own biases. Studies have shown bias in basically every other government institution: education, banking, health care and housing. The real shame would not be discovering that we have unconscious biases in our criminal justice system. The shame would be in not looking for it. The shame would be in not doing all we can to eliminate bias — implicit or otherwise.”
Veteran's Treatment Drug Court
Scarlett initiated the first Veterans Treatment Court in South Carolina and one of the few in the nation. Veterans who have experienced actual combat exposure or the impact of acquiring combat-ready skills need access to veteran-specific resources in order to end the cycle of involvement in the criminal justice system the Veteran’s Treatment Drug Court in partnership with the Probate Court. This is an effective, approach used by prosecutors and law enforcement throughout the nation.
Worthless Check Unit for Small Businesses
Early on, Scarlett organized the launch of a Worthless Checks Unit in order to help the many small business owners who fall prey to those who repeatedly write bad checks. The beauty of this program is that the victim is made whole with restitutions and the check writer's avoid having a criminal record by stepping up and making things right. This program has brought in almost $3.5 million dollars in restitution to victims (mostly small businesses) and has saved over 10,000 citizens from a criminal record.