Number of juvenile offenders committed to DJJ decreases; intervention programs still needed

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- A recent report ranks South Carolina 9th in the nation for most juvenile arrests. The data comes from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

But does South Carolina really have some of the highest arrest rates for youth ages 10-17? 7News took a look into the numbers.

In 2017, more than 13,000 youth cases were processed by the SC Department of Juvenile Justice. Only 20% of those cases resulted in commitment to a detention center.

The United States Department of Justice reports that in 2017 more than 1500 kids between the ages of 10 and 17 were arrested in South Carolina.

“A lot of the young people who are involved with the system area a part of the system for non-serious crimes, like disturbing schools and publicly disorderly conduct,” explained Tracey Tucker with Campaign for Youth Justice.

More than 10,000 juveniles were referred to SCDJJ in 2017. Just over 1000 were placed in DJJ custody.

Others had cases dismissed, received probation or were placed in a youth arbitration program. Youth advocates say programs offered while a juvenile is detained need to be offered before a child is referred to DJJ.

Tucker continued, “When young people are detained they have higher recidivism rates meaning they are more likely to return to a system. That’s why we have to have community based programs because they get at the root causes of what’s really going on with an individual.”

School also plays an important role in keeping kids from behind bars. “The majority of their time, meaningful time is spent in school,” said Lashawnda Woods-Roberts, who has been working on addressing the prison to pipeline issue in the state.

The need for intervention is why there has been a push to institute more mental health programs in resources in South Carolina schools.

“It’s a quick fix people don’t want to deal with problem kids most of these children were suspended. Oftentimes when a child has a referral to DJJ there were some signs before,” added Woods-Roberts.

A few counties in the state have implemented intervention and prevention programs; however, there is not a state wide program to address youth offenders.

“Their brain doesn’t develop fully until 25, so if you’re giving them adult consequences without intervention i don’t know how effective it would be.”

According to DJJ, the most common offenses associated with juvenile offenders being placed in custody are assault and battery and burglary.

DJJ reports that only about 10% of the juveniles in custody have serious or violent offenses. The department has also seen a decrease in the number of juveniles referred to the agency and the number of those committed to DJJ custody.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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