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South Carolina Advocates Urge Legislators to Improve its JJ System to Serve Youth and Implement Raise the Age

Posted in 2017, Take Action Now Thursday, 23 February 2017

By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director

Advocates across South Carolina submitted a letter to the South Carolina House Legislative Oversight Committee today.  The letter was in response to a January 2017 report by the Legislative Audit Council that found the following about the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ):

- DJJ had two uninvestigated and unreported deaths of youth in their care;
-  A lack of sufficient training for juvenile correctional officers;
- Non-compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA);
- Incomplete and inaccurate data tracking on the progress of youth in the system;
- Lack of accountability and quality assurance of juvenile services at the county-level and in its wilderness camps.

As a result of these challenges, more youth are ending up detained and incarcerated in dangerous placements that are not rehabilitating youth or increasing public safety.  In the letter, advocates call on legislators to form a public task force that includes directly impacted youth and families, advocates, and system stakeholders, to consider significant system changes including:

- Promoting and resourcing delinquency prevention programs and alternatives to arrests and detainment;

- Developing a continuum of community-based services based on the needs of youth and the strengths and assets of their families and their communities;
- Limiting the use of residential evaluation centers;
- Limiting the type of offenses that can result in commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice;
- Decentralizing DJJ’s system and shifting to a Missouri Model that serves youth closer to their families and their communities.

Advocates hope consideration and implementation of these sorts of changes will help the state implement it’s Raise the Age legislation, SB 916, sponsored by Senator Malloy and signed into law in June 2016.  The legislation will not take effect unless DJJ is funded to implement raise the age during the 2018 legislative session.  

To read the letter sent to the South Carolina House Legislative Oversight Committee click here

If you’re a South Carolina resident and want to take action, click here to sign a petition to the Oversight Committee.