Former director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections Jon Ozmint said he has seen some of the hardest of criminal hearts turn for good among inmates serving life sentences for murder.
But, Susan Smith hasn’t seemed to “turn that corner” yet, Ozmint said.
He said the public and media’s continued fascination with the case is one of the things that inhibits Smith from moving past the attention she received after confessing to drowning her two small children 20 years ago.
“Most murderers are one-time, crime-of-passion people, and they end up becoming good people,” Ozmint said. “Susan Smith just hasn’t been able to fit that mold.”
Smith’s attorneys declined to comment publicly, and her former husband could not be reached on the 20th anniversary of the crime.
Ozmint, who was prisons director from 2003 to 2011, said he saw Smith multiple times, but never formally made contact with her.
“Part of the problem is the media writing stories about her,” said Ozmint. “She is truly a narcissist, and she thrives on the media’s attention. Someone like that, I didn’t want to feed that narcissism. Other than passing her on the yard, I wouldn’t give her any extra, undue attention.”
Ozmint said Smith is a strain on the system.
Since being incarcerated, she has compiled a long list of violations that drew disciplinary actions from DOC officials.
The most prominent of the violations occurred in 2000, when Smith engaged in sexual acts with two corrections officers while at the Women’s Correctional Center in Columbia.
Former SLED chief Robert Stewart said he remembered warning prison authorities to not let any male prison guards near Smith after he transported her to the Women’s Correctional Center.
“We were back there a few years later,” he said. “We were back there and arrested a captain and a lieutenant for having improper relations with her.”
Both officers were fired, and Smith was moved to the Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood. Smith lost one year of visitation rights as well as 45 days of recreational privileges and 75 days of canteen privileges.
Smith also received disciplinary action on four occasions for mutilation, or injury to an inmate’s body that is self-inflicted, since being incarcerated. Smith’s disciplinary report said one of the incidents occurred in April 2009. The others happened in April 2010, June 2012 and October 2012.
The State newspaper attempted to write to Smith for comment about how she feels about the case and trial 20 years later, but Ozmint said her mail is screened to cut her off as much as possible from the outside world.
In June 2003, Smith posted an ad on Writeaprisoner.com, a website that allows inmates to pay for personal ads seeking pen pals on the outside. Smith posted that she has “grown and matured a lot since my incarceration” and said she looked forward to hearing from new people.
Although prisoners do not have access to the Internet, they do receive mail written to them from personal ads from the website.
However, Smith volunteered to have the ad taken down after the website received a flood of traffic after the ad was posted. According to a report from the Associated Press on July 12, 2003, nearly 500 email attempts were forwarded to Smith, and the ad received thousands of hits.
“No inmates should be really heard,” Ozmint said. “Because whether you like it or not, whether it’s the way it should be or not, in the South, when people see a name in the paper or press, that’s a big deal. That’s a celebrity – whether it’s good or bad. Writing stories about Susan Smith is giving her status, and it does her more harm than good.”
Despite Smith’s violations since being incarcerated, she remains eligible for her Nov. 4, 2024, parole date according to Stephanie Givens, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman.