COLUMBIA, SC — The man who has led South Carolina’s prisons agency for three years is retiring at the end of next month, ending decades of public service, Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday.
Bill Byars is leaving his post as director of the Department of Corrections effective September 30, Haley said. Byars was also expected to make that announcement to his staff Friday.
Haley tapped Byars as her prisons chief just weeks after she was elected in 2010. He had led the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, where he has been credited with resolving a 13-year federal lawsuit and overhauling the agency.
Haley had hoped that Byars could lead a combined agency that would manage the state’s prisons, juvenile justice and parole departments, but the effort failed in the Legislature.
At Corrections, Byars helped eliminate deficit spending and oversaw reorganization of inmate services. On his watch, South Carolina’s inmate population dropped from 23,300 to less than 22,000, according to Haley. Recidivism rates also dropped from 30.6 percent to 27.5 percent.
Byars suffered a stroke in June 2011 but returned to work. He was a Family Court judge for 10 years before Gov. Mark Sanford appointed him to lead DJJ in 2003.
Byars also directed the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina School of Law and worked for child welfare reform as a member of the executive committee of South Carolina’s Families for Kids. He chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice from 1995-99.