Pubdate: Thu, 13 Mar 2003
Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Copyright: 2003 Sun Publishing Co.
Note: apparent 150 word limit on LTEs
Source: Sun News (SC)
Author: Jeffrey Collins The Associated Press


600 S.C. voters answered survey

'We now have confirmation that the people of South Carolina support shifting
state money from punishment to treatment.'

Wyndi Anderson, S.C. Advocates for Pregnant Women

A survey sponsored by women's rights groups says a majority of South
Carolinians prefer treatment to prison for pregnant women who use drugs.

The survey of 600 registered voters found that 39 percent of respondents
supported getting the mother into a drug treatment program. Twenty-seven
percent would make the treatment mandatory with the threat of jail time if
it is not completed. Ten percent supported prison time.

"We now have confirmation that the people of South Carolina support shifting
state money from punishment to treatment," said Wyndi Anderson, director of
the S.C. Advocates for Pregnant Women, one of the sponsors of the study.

Anderson and the national group decided to conduct the survey after Regina
McKnight of Conway was sentenced to 12 years in prison for homicide by child
abuse after her daughter was stillborn, a byproduct of cocaine found in her

The conviction was possible because of a state Supreme Court ruling in 1996
that said a viable fetus is considered a child and that women could be
charged with abuse if they took drugs after their fetus reached a viable

Former Attorney General Charlie Condon fought challenges of the law, and his
replacement, Henry McMaster, hasn't shown any signs of changing the policy.

"McMaster strongly believes pregnant women who knowingly put their
children's lives at risk by taking drugs should be prosecuted to the fullest
extent of the law," attorney general's spokesman Trey Walker said.

Prosecutor Greg Hembree, whose office tried McKnight, said prison time was a
last resort because McKnight didn't try to get help.

The poll, which was conducted in October, found that 84 percent of the
respondents think drugs are a serious problem in the state, and 50 percent
don't think there are enough alcohol and drug treatment programs available
in South Carolina.

The poll also found that 53 percent of respondents were either very or
somewhat willing to support paying an extra $100 in state taxes to expand
the availability of drug treatment centers.

That finding alone shows the poll is ideologically flawed, said Walker, a
former Republican political consultant.

Walker said he has trouble believing that many South Carolinians would
support a tax increase for any reason.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
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